Yesterday evening Sue and I went to see the exhibition of Japanese art by Katsushika Hokusai at the British Museum. Now I confess I am not a great fan of Oriental art but I do love Hokusai’s best-known work ‘The Great Wave‘ and so was interested to see other examples of his work. This proved to be a wide range of styles ranging from traditional oriental to a fusion style in which he incorporated elements of western art.
Katsushika Hokusai was born in Japan in October 1760 in Edo (modern day Tokyo). It is believed he started painting at the age of 6 and he was apprenticed to a wood carver at 14 and at 18 entered an art studio of a woodblock print artist. From 1793 he began exploring other styles of art and was expelled from the studio. He illustrated books and became more and more famous. He did not produce his most famous works Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji which includes The Great Wave until he was 60. In fact, there are more than 36 as they proved so popular that the publisher prevailed on Hokusai to produce 10 additional prints.
Hokusai produced works under many different names during his life and was of the firm belief that his art got better as he aged. He said that when he reached 100 his art would be at its best. Sadly he never reached this milestone as he died in May 1849 at the age of 89. On his death bed he is reputed to have said ‘ Just another 5 years, then I could become a real painter’.
I was pleased to see more of the pictures from 36 Views of Mount Fuji and these continue to be my favourite works by Hokusai. It was also interesting to see how his style changed over his lifetime as he encountered new influences.
The Hukosai exhibition ‘ Beyond the Great Wave’ continues at the British Museum until 13th August and I highly recommend it.