Hokusai

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Artists

Hokusai was one of the greatest Japanese landscape artists of the 1800's. His paintings and woodblock prints influenced many prominent European artists. Among them were the impressionist Edgar Degas and the postimpressionists Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh.

Katsushika Hokusai was born in October 1760 (his exact date of birth is unknown) in Edo (Tokyo), Japan. He was the adopted son of a mirror maker. He began to learn sketching and design as a young boy in the family shop. He later served as an apprentice to a woodblock engraver. At 18, Hokusai began studying with the artist Katsukawa Shunshö. Shunshö worked in the style of art known as Ukiyo-e ("pictures of the floating world"). This style depicted recreational activities enjoyed by the people of the day.

Hokusai produced more than 30,000 prints during his lifetime. But he did not achieve his greatest fame until after he turned 60. During these later years he created two of his most famous series of landscape prints, Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji (1829-32) and Tour of the Waterfalls of the Various Provinces (1833-34). Like most of his work, these prints are innovative depictions of dramatic scenes. They are rendered with bold lines and colors.

In addition to his landscapes and equally remarkable prints of birds and flowers, Hokusai also produced sketches, murals, and book illustrations.

Hokusai died on May 10, 1849, in Edo.

Reviewed by Julie Nelson Davis
Art and East Asian Studies
Oberlin College

 

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