Katsushika Hokusai

Katsushika Hokusai was a Japanese ukiyo-e artist, renowned for his prints, paintings and book illustrations. He spent nearly all of his long life in Edo (modern-day Tokyo). The literal translation of ukiyo-e is ‘pictures of the floating world’, a reference to the transient pleasures and casual entertainment that the city offered. Kabuki actors, sumo wrestlers and courtesans were typical subjects for pictures. Hokusai was also a master at landscapes.

Hokusai was born in around 1760. Details of his early years are sketchy, though he seems to have been adopted by an uncle who worked as a mirror polisher for the Shogun. Aged 14, he became apprentice to a wood-carver, before going on to enter the studio of the ukiyo-e master, Katsukawa Shunsho.

Upon his death in 1793, Shunsho was replaced at the head of the studio by his chief disciple, Katsukawa Shunko. Hokusai and Shunkō soon had a dramatic falling out, apparently over the former’s incorporation of western features such as shading and perspective into his imagery. French and Dutch engravings had recently started to be smuggled into Japan, at a time when all contact with the outside world was forbidden — and Hokusai was fascinated by them. The fusion of western and eastern elements would be key to many of the successes of his career.

He experienced a number of setbacks over the years: from the death of his two wives, to suffering a stroke, and having to pay off a profligate grandson’s massive gambling debts. No setback could halt his restless creativity, though. Hokusai is estimated to have produced 30,000 artworks.

Probably the most celebrated are those in 36 Views of Mount Fuji: a woodblock-print series he began in around 1830. It depicts the sacred Japanese peak of Mount Fuji from different viewpoints in different seasons.

One of the images from that series is Under The Well of the Great Wave off Kanagawa (more commonly known as The Great Wave). In 2023, a print of it sold at Christie’s for $2.8 million, making this the most expensive work by Hokusai ever sold at auction.

Waterfalls, ghosts, bridges and large flowers provided the subjects for other successful series.

Hokusai continued working into old age, assisted in his latter years by his daughter, Eijo, an accomplished artist in her own right. He died in 1869, aged 88.

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Fugaku sanjurokkei (Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Kanagawa oki nami ura (Under the well of the Great Wave off Kanagawa) [“Great Wave”]

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Kanagawa oki nami ura (Under the well of the Great Wave off Kanagawa)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Kanagawa oki nami ura (Under the well of the Great Wave off Kanagawa) [“Great Wave”]

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Kanagawa oki nami ura (Under the well of the Great Wave off Kanagawa)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

KANAGAWA OKI NAMI URA (LA GRANDE VAGUE DE KANAGAWA) [“LA VAGUE”]

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Kanagawa oki nami ura (Under the well of the Great Wave off Kanagawa) [“Great Wave”]

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Kanagawa oki nami ura (Under the well of the Great Wave off Kanagawa)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Kanagawa oki nami ura (Under the well of the Great Wave off Kanagawa)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Sanka hakuu (Storm below the summit) [Black Fuji]

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)

Gaifu kaisei (Fine wind, clear weather) [“Red Fuji”]

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Gaifu kaisei (Fine wind, clear weather) [“Red Fuji”]

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Kanagawa oki nami ura (Under the well of the Great Wave off Kanagawa)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Gaifu kaisei (Fine wind, clear weather) [“Red Fuji”]

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Kanagawa oki nami ura (Under the well of the Great Wave off Kanagawa) [“Great Wave”]

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Gaifu kaisei (Fine wind, clear weather) [“Red Fuji”]

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Gaifu kaisei (Fine wind, clear weather) [“Red Fuji”]

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Kanagawa oki nami ura (Under the well of the Great Wave off Kanagawa)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Fine Wind, Clear Weather (Gaifu kaisei), also known as Red Fuji

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

In The Well of the Great Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami ura)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Sanka hakuu (Storm below the summit) ["Black Fuji"]

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Kinoe no Komatsu (Pining for love)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Hawk and cherry blossoms

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)

THE COMPLETE SET OF TEN PRINTS FROM THE SERIES A TRUE MIRROR OF CHINESE AND JAPANESE POEMS ( SHIIKA SHASHINKYO )

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)

Kanagawa oki nami ura (Under the well of the Great Wave off Kanagawa) [“Great Wave”]

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Irises and Grasshopper

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Kinoe no Komatsu (Pining for love)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Sanka hakuu (Storm below the summit)

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)

FINE WIND, CLEAR WEATHER ( GAIFU KAISEI ), ALSO KNOWN AS RED FUJI

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

New Year’s Day in the Yoshiwara

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

The Amida Waterfalls in the far reaches of the Kiso Road

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Koshu Misaka suimen (Surface of Lake Misaka, Kai Province)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Mino no Kuni Yoro no taki (The Yoro waterfall in Mino Province)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Namichidori (Plovers above Waves)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Koshu Kajikazawa (Kajikazawa in Kai province)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Sumidagawa Sekiya no sato (Sekiya Village on the Sumida River)

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)

Fugaku hyakkei (One hundred views of Mount Fuji), 1834-35; ca. 1849 (vol. 3)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Ono no Takamura (Poem by Sangi Takamura)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Shichirigahama Beach in Sagami Province (Soshu Shichirigahama)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Shojin tozan (Groups of mountain climbers)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

STORM BELOW THE SUMMIT ( SANKA HAKUU )

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Tokaido Ejiri Tago no ura ryakuzu (Tago Bay near Ejiri on the Tokaido)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Tokaido Ejiri Tago no ura ryaku zu (Tago Bay near Ejiri on the Tokaido)

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)

Kanagawa oki nami ura (In the well of the great wave off Kanagawa), from the series Fugaku sanjurokkei (The thirty-six views of Mount Fuji)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Koshu Mishima-goe (Mishima Pass in Kai Province)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Bishu Fujimigahara (Fuji view plain in Owari Province)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

The Amida Waterfall in the far reaches of the Kisokaido Road

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Bushu Tamagawa (The Tama “Jewel” River in Musashi province)

KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Koshu Mishima-goe (Mishima Pass in Kai Province)