Exhibition: Hokusai beyond the Great Wave

I really enjoyed the Hokusai exhibition at the British Museam on friday. In recent research I learnt that many Western artists (especially Van Gogh) were influenced by Japanese art so I thought I’d go a long to see what the fuss was about. I didn’t realise that the Japanese were equally influenced the other way too from pigments used to different perspective.

For conservation reasons there was a rotation of about half the artworks halfway through the exhibition run because some works can only be displayed for a limited period of time due to their light sensitivity.

Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) is widely regarded as one of Japan’s most famous and influential artists, this was a 30 year retrospective. He started off as a wood block print cutter but mostly he made print ready drawings and other people cut and printed them for him, he had close working relationships with his publishers.

His most famous picture is the Great Wave, reproduced on pretty much everything by now. The original Great wave was printed 8000 times, using four seasoned cherry wood blocks carved on both sides.

Under the wave off Kanagawa (The Great Wave) from Thirty-six views of Mt Fuji. Colour woodblock, 1831. Acquired with Art Fund support. On display 25 May – 13 August.

Some notes I made as I went around:

  • He used many different names throughout his career, sometimes passing them on to pupils.
  • Red stamp is painters seal, different for each new name.
  • His daughter helped him in old age complete his work. He thought he be a true artist at 100 but only live to 90. She tried to pass off her work as his because it brought in more household income.
  • He designed hair comb and illustrated books with woodblock prints.
  • 36 views of mt fuji
  • He didn’t cut the wood himself except in his teens
  • Loved his ghost stories. His sketchbooks of ducks and frogs and insects. The last room his dragon
  • Experiment with European paper & perspective and shading & Imported Prussian blue pigment.

 

Weeping cherry and bullfinch. Colour woodblock, c. 1834. On display 7 July – 13 August.
Umezawa Manor in Sagami Province from Thirty-six Views of Mt Fuji. Colour woodblock, 1831. On display 7 July – 13 August.
Clear day with a southern breeze (Red Fuji) from Thirty-Six Views of Mt Fuji. Colour woodblock, 1831. On display 25 May – 13 August.
Amida waterfall, deep beyond the Kiso highway. Colour woodblock, 1833. The Tōyō Bunko, Tokyo. On display 7 July – 13 August.
Eagle and cherry. Hanging scroll, ink and colour on silk, 1843. Ujiie Ukiyo-e Collection, Kamakura. On display 7 July – 13 August.
Snowy morning, Koishikawa from Thirty-six views of Mt Fuji. Colour woodblock, 1832. On display 7 July – 13 August.

References
British Museam. (2017) Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave At: http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/hokusai.aspx
(Accessed on 17 Jul 17)

British Museam Blog. (2017) Hokusai: old master At: http://blog.britishmuseum.org/hokusai-old-master/
(Accessed on 17 Jul 17)
 

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