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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Hokusai


Boy sitting on a tree branch playing a flute in the foreground, Mt. Fuji in the distance
1839
ink and color on silk
127.0 x 69.2 cm
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA

Katsushika, Hokusai (1760-1849) was a Japanese artist, Ukiyo-e painter of the Edo shogun period. He was born in 1760 as a son of a mirror maker to the shogun and started painting at six. In his time, he was Japan's leading expert. He is best known as author of the woodblock print series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (c. 1831). The series depicts Mount Fuji in differing seasons and weather conditions from a variety of different places and distances.

His influences stretched to his contemporaries in nineteenth century Europe whose new style Art Nouveau, or Jugendstil in Germany, was influenced by him and by Japanese art in general. This was also part of the larger Impressionist movement, with similar themes to Hokusai appearing in Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

He died at the age of 89, in 1849 and some years before his death he is reported to have stated:
"At the age of five years I had the habit of sketching things. At the age of fifty I had produced a large number of pictures, but for all that, none of them had any merit until the age of seventy. At seventy-three finally I learned something about the true nature of things, birds, animals, insects, fish, the grasses and the trees. So at the age of eighty years I will have made some progress, at ninety I will have penetrated the deepest significance of things, at a hundred I will make real wonders and at a hundred and ten, every point, every line, will have a life of its own."