Hokusai is one of the most famous artists in Japan. He invented many techniques that are still widely used today, such as printing from multi-coloured woodblock stamps (known as nishiki-e). Hokusai prints have a watercolour-like painterly effect, and his most notable piece; The Great Wave off Kanagawa is available in various finishes. Hokusai's breathtaking works of art come to life with this collection. These masterpieces are printed on high-quality canvas and arrive ready to hang.
Hokusai was a famous artmaker, painter and printmaker from nineteenth-century Japan. From the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, Hokusai created the iconic Great Wave off Kanagawa, which would make him famous around the world. This wood print has been reproduced hundreds of times, printed on paper, canvas, t-shirts, mugs, and more.
Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) was a famous Japanese painter and printmaker of the Edo period. He began painting as early as six years old, and by fourteen he became an apprentice to a woodcarver. He took lessons in Ukiyo-e from Katsukawa Shunsho, which only propelled his artmaking style to an iconic level. There was no slowing down for Hokusai, who received many commissions during his career. By the time he reached seventy, he created his most iconic work of art yet: The Great Wave off Kanagawa. This print would be part of a larger series on Mount Fuji.
During the time in which Hokusai was creating art, Japan had sealed itself from much of the rest of the world, relying only on Korea, China, and the Dutch for trade relations. Western culture was deemed forbidden in Japan, but that didn’t stop the Dutch from sneaking in Western art through the port of Nagasaki. These would have likely impacted Hokusai’s artmaking style. Hokusai was a master of Ukiyo-e, producing countless woodcut prints and paintings. His work is a mix of Chinese landscape art tradition, European perspectives, as well as nineteenth-century Japan. It was a style of art that was exported to Europe and inspired the likes of Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, among many others.
Hokusai was aware of the trend of Japanese printmaking, which included using intense colour and depicting landscape scenes. Hokusai saw this nineteenth-century trend and headed to work. Prussian blue was introduced to Japan most likely from European traders in the 1830s.
The Great Wave off Kanagawa (1831)
Even if you don’t know who Hokusai is, you are sure to know The Great Wave off Kanagawa, his most famous print block yet. It’s the most famous of the prints in Hokusai’s series Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji. Hokusai began the series at the ripe age of seventy and would continue with the series for two years, finishing in 1832. He would have a fascination with Mt. Fuji until his death in 1849. In The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Hokusai depicts fishermen attempting to deliver freshly caught fish to Edo. A great wave is making this seemingly mundane task a difficult one. Buddhist and Daoist tradition suggests that Fuji held the secret to immortality, piquing Hokusai’s interest in the mountain.
Five Women (1808-1813)
Hokusai painted ordinary people too, not just mountains. Five Women is a leisure scene depicting five women dyeing fabric. Two of these women are married, and they examine the fabric microscopically. A young woman is wearing a furisode, which is a kimono specifically for a younger woman. The painting depicting this horizontal scene is made richer thanks to the depiction of the luxurious fabric, which sprawls across the canvas in the form of the women’s kimonos.
In High-Ranking Courtesan, Hokusai depicts a woman dressed in courtesan fashion. She has the unmistakable makeup, patterned kimono, and ornaments in her hair that would suggest this. At the time in Edo (the former capital of Japan), courtesan women were treated like celebrities, inspiring fashion trends. Hokusai’s painting stands out from the woodblocks produced at the time that depicted courtesans as woodblock prints were mass-produced and held less value than a luxurious painting.
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