The great Japanese art master who made waves (literally)

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The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Hokusai's most famous print, the first in the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, c. 1829–1832 | Wikimedia Commons

May 10, On This Day

The most recognized Japanese artist

Portrait of Hokusai by Keisai Eisen | Wikimedia Commons

Described in Encyclopaedia Britannica (1985) as “[having] impressed Western artists, critics and art lovers alike, more, possibly, than any other single Asian artist”, Edo period Japanese artist, ukiyo-e painter and printmaker Katsushika Hokusai was born in 1760 and passed away today, 172 years ago, on May 10, 1849.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Hokusai’s most famous print, the first in the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, c. 1829–1832 | Wikimedia Commons

He is famously known for the woodblock print series ‘Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji’, including the internationally iconic print, ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’. It is often considered the most recognizable work of Japanese art in the world.

Tiger in the Snow, hanging scroll, ink and colour on silk, 1849 | Wikimedia Commons

In a long and successful career, he produced over 30,000 paintings, sketches, woodblock prints, and images for picture books in total, and is considered one of the greatest masters in the history of art.
His work transformed the ukiyo-e artform from a style of portraiture largely focused on courtesans and actors into a much broader style of art that focused on landscapes, plants, and animals.

Dragon on the Higashimachi Festival Float, Obuse, 1844 | Wikimedia Commons

Hokusai’s number of pseudonyms exceeds that of any other major Japanese artist. His Hokusai Manga consists of thousands of images of every subject imaginable over 15 volumes. He influenced the Impressionism movement, with themes echoing his work appearing in the work of Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, as well as Art Nouveau, or Jugendstil in Germany. Many European artists collected his woodcuts such as Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Gustav Klimt, Franz Marc, August Macke, Édouard Manet, and Vincent van Gogh.

The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife (1814), included in Kinoe no Komatsu, a three-volume book of shunga erotica | Wikimedia Commons

 

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