Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎)
Hokusai KATSUSHIKA (c. October 31, 1760 - May 10, 1849) was a painter of Ukiyoe (Japanese woodblock prints) who flourished in the Edo period, a recent time in Japan, and was a representative figure of the late Edo period, Bunka and Bunsei eras (Kasei culture).
His major works were "Fugaku sanju rokkei" (Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji) and "Hokusai Manga" (Hokusai's sketches), and he was a famed throughout the world as a painter.
He drew shinrabansho (all things in nature, the whole of creation) and many other things, and published more than 30,000 works in his life. He was outstanding not only in terms of his woodcuts but also in his original drawings.
Additionally, he made a great contribution to the spread of painting techniques and education for common people by producing innovation in yomihon (books for reading) and sashie (illustration), publishing many picture books such as "Hokusai Manga" and showing his ability in the depiction of forms with hair brushes.
He founded the Katsushika school and later had an influence not only on Western impressionist artists such as Vincent VAN GOGH but also craftsmen and musicians.
His great achievement is highly evaluated, especially abroad, and he was the only Japanese who was ranked among 'the world 100 people who made one of the most important achievements in this 1,000 years' in "Life," a U.S. magazine, in 1999.
Biography and Timeline
In c. October 31, 1760
He was born a son of Sadayoshi (定義), a poor farmer, at Honjo Warigesui, Katsushika County, Musashi Province (Honjo Warigesui in Edo, now a part of the present Sumida Ward, Tokyo Prefecture; refer also to 'Hokusai Street'.)
His childhood name was Tokitaro. Later, he changed the name to Tetsuzo.
In his childhood, he was adopted as a son by Ise NAKAJIMA, an artist of bronze mirrors of the shogunate's official business, but later Nakajima transferred the family estate to his real son, so Hokusai left the Nakajima family. Subsequently, he experienced hardships as an apprentice of a book-lending shop and a disciple of a sculptor of woodblocks, and thus returned to his family home.
He became a disciple of Shunsho KATSUKAWA, a Ukiyoe artist. He learned every method of painting such as the Kano school, Kara-e painting and Western painting, and drew many Ukiyoe landscapes. Around this time, he used the go (byname) of 'Shunro,' which originated from each letter of his master's name Shunsho and his other go, Kyokurosei.
He was excommunicated by the Katsukawa school. It is said that this was because he was at odds with Haruyoshi, the oldest senior apprentice, or because he had secretly learned the Kano school's brushwork, but the truth isn't known.
In 1795, he used the go of 'Hokusai Sori.'
He gave the go of 'Sori' to his disciple Soji and began to use the go of 'Hokusai,' 'Kako' and 'Tokimasa.'
In 1805, he began using the go 'Hokusai KATSUSHIKA' (as to the orthographic style, refer to the introduction).
In 1810, he used the go 'Taito.'
In 1814, he published the first edition of "Hokusai Manga."
He used the go of 'Iitsu.'
He began producing the first edition of "Fugaku sanju rokkei" in 1823, started publishing it in 1831 and concluded in 1833.
He used the go of 'Gakyo Rojin' and 'Manji.'
He began the production of "Fugaku hyakkei (A Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji)."
He traveled to Obuse Town, Takai County, Shinano Province, and stayed there until 1848. He drew "Angry Waves" (the picture at right is a portion of it) and so on (an original drawing at Obuse in Shinshu).
On May 10, 1849
He died at a temporary house in the precincts of Henjo-ji Temple (a branch temple of Senso-ji Temple), which was located at Asakusa Shoten-Cho in Edo. His age at death was 90.
His death haiku (Japanese poem) was, 'I wonder to go to summer fields for a pastime as a soul; (人魂で 行く気散じや 夏野原) (I will be able to become a true edakumi [painter]).'
Thirty changes in the artist's go
He frequently changed his go, doing so 30 times in his life.
The go he used were 'Shunro,' 'Hokusai,' 'Sori,' 'Kako,' Tokimasa,' 'Gakyojin,' 'Taito,' 'Iitsu,' 'Gakyorojin,' 'Manji' and others, as well as combinations of them.
The go 'Hokusai,' which is well known today, was an abbreviation of 'Hokusai Tokimasa,' which was named after the faith of Hokutatsu Myoken Bosatsu in the Nichiren sect, which deified the Polar star and the seven starts of the North Dipper.
The reason this name was common as compared to others was that it was used in the style such as 'Hokusai arateme Iitsu' (Iitsu, formerly Hokusai) or 'Hokusai arateme Taito.'
Additionally, some people say the reason he changed his go so often was that it was one of the means to gain the income needed to transfer the go to his disciples.
It is also well known that Hokusai moved very often, which was said to be 93 times.
It is said that at one point he moved three times in a day.
This was because he and his daughter Oi (Oi KATSUSHIKA), who had divorced and lived with her father Hokusai, devoted themselves exclusively to painting, so that they moved whenever their rooms became dirty or in wild disarray.
Finally, upon his ninety-third relocation, when he moved to a rented house where he had lived before, the house remained in wild disorder, just as it was in the past. It is said that he stopped moving after that.
His dietary life also seemed to be in disorder, as a matter of course. It is said that the reason he achieved longevity of 90 years was that he ate arrowhead every day.
The aspect of illustration painter
Besides his work in Ukiyoe, he flourished as a painter of illustrations.
He drew many sashie for gesaku (literary work of a playful, mocking, joking, silly or frivolous nature) such as kibyoshi (an illustrated book of popular fiction whose cover is yellow), Sharebon book (a gay-quarter novelette) and yomihon. However, because he did not follow the designs proposed by authors, he was often in conflict with them.
He used the go of 'Hokusai KATSUSHIKA,' among many others, at one time when he worked together with Bakin KYOKUTEI, a writer of gesaku. At that time, they published such works as "Shinpen Suikogaden," "Kinsei Kaidan Shimoyo no Hoshi" and "Chinsetsu yumiharizuki (The Crescent Moon)," which made his name famous together with Bakin.
It is said that he was a person who greatly elevated the estimation of sashie, which had previously been only a premium of a book.
Additionally, Hokusai temporarily stayed in Bakin's home at one time.
I would be able to become a true edakumi (a painter).
On May 10, 1849, Hokusai was in his dying days at the age of sotsuju (90 years).
The situation at that time was written as follows:
When Hokusai was dying, he took a deep breath and said, "If the heavens make me live for ten more years,"' and after a while he said, "If the heavens make me live for five more years, I would necessarily be able to become a very true edakumi," stumbled, and then died.'
The meaning is as follows: 'When Hokusai was dying, he took a deep breath and said, "If the heavens make me live for ten more years,"' and after a while he said, "If the heavens make me live for five more years, I would necessarily be able to become a very true edakumi," stumbled, and then died.'
His death haiku was
I wonder to go to summer fields for a pastime as a soul.
This means, 'I wonder to go to summer fields for a pastime as a soul.'
It has been rumored that he was a descendant of an expert swordsman of the Kira family.
According to "Katsushika Hokusai Den (Biography of Hokusai KATSUSHIKA)" by Kyoshin Iijima, Heihachiro KOBAYASHI, an expert swordsman who had been treated as a hero of the Kira side in the Genroku Ako Incident (Chushingura [The Treasury of Loyal Retainers]), had a daughter who later married Ise NAKAJIMA, an artist of mirrors, and gave birth to Hokusai KATSUSHIKA. Apparently, this rumor originated from Hokusai KATSUSHIKA himself. It was said that Hokusai was very proud of this. However, this is quite doubtful.
Hokusai KATSUSHIKA married twice in his life, and in each marriage his wife had one son and two daughters (a total of two sons and four daughters).
The eldest daughter was Omiyo. The eldest son was Tominosuke. The second daughter was Otatsu. The second son was Sakijuro (崎十郎). The third daughter was Oei. The fourth daughter was Onao (お猶).
Those that are shown here are cohesive masterpieces including soroimono (series of paintings), which are only a part of Hokusai's paintings. There are famous works other than series. Additionally, he made a large number of works that no longer exist today.
Occasionally, some of them are confirmed in records and letters as having actually 'existed.'
It consists of 15 volumes. It was a printed book that was considered to have 4,000 pictures (a picture book printed with colors). It was first published when Hokusai was 54 years old and his artist's appellation was Taito (the first edition was published in 1814). Initially, it was published as etehon (art manual, an instructional book for students of painting). However, it received a high reputation and became widespread such as for the manuals of design for craftsmen. It includes various contents ranging from people of various professions, tools, funny faces, specters and representations of perspective.
Refer to 'Hokusai gallery 10'
Hyakumonogatari (100 Stories)
It was the drawings of specters, deriving its subject from Hyakumonogatari. It was medium-sized nishiki-e (colored woodblock print). Among all five pictures, the two pictures of Yotsuya Kaidan (Yotsuya Ghost Stories) and Sarayashiki (The Dish Mansion) were particularly famous. The signature and seal on these pictures were Iitsu. Drawn around 1831 - 1832. It is thought that when it was first published it was planned to be one of 100 pictures of soroimono.
However, today only the following five pictures exist:
Oiwasan' (Hokusai Gallery 4), 'Sarayashiki' (Hokusai Gallery 5), 'Warai Hannya,' 'Shiunen,' 'Kohada Koheiji.'
Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji
It is the soroimono of 46 large landscape nishiki-e whose theme was Mt. Fuji, consisting of 36 main paintings and ten others that were added because of their good reputation. Production of the first edition started around 1823; it was published in 1831 and completed around 1833. The signature and seal on these pictures were Hokusai aratame Iitsu. The hanmoto (publisher) was Yohachi NISHIMURAYA (Eijudo).
Gaifu kaisei (South Wind, Clear Sky)' (also known as Red Fuji) and 'Kanagawa oki nami ura (View Through Waves off the Coast of Kanagawa)', known as representative works of Hokusai, are especially famous. Kanagawa oki nami ura' had a great impact on Western artists such as Vincent VAN GOGH, who saw it and later praised it in a letter to a fellow painter; and Claude Debussy, who got an idea and composed the symphonic poem "La Mer (The Sea)." Usually, the scene of a breaking wave can't be viewed as anything other than abstract expression. However, compared to a photograph of a wave as taken by a high-speed camera, it proves to be a very graphic still image.
In addition, this painting is adopted as the motif of the logotype of QUICKSILVER, a brand name of surfing goods.
Chie no umi (One Thousand Pictures of the Sea)
It is the soroimono of ten medium-sized nishiki-e, the subjects of which were fishing in various places. They describe the landscapes of the changing water surface and fishermen. They were drawn by Zen Hokusai Iitsu (前北斎為一) in or around 1833.
Kinugawa Hachifuse' (Bowl-Trap Fishing on the Kinu River), 'Soshu Choshi' (Choshi in Fusa Province) (see the picture at right), 'Miyatogawa Naganawa' (Long-line Fishing on the Miyato River), 'Machi - ami' (Net Fishing), 'Soshu Tonegawa' (Tone River in Fusa Province), 'Koshu Hiburi' (Fishing by Torchlight in Kai Province), 'Uraga in Sagami Province,' 'Goto Kujira - tsuki' (Whaling off the Goto Islands) (as depicted in 'Whaling culture'), 'Noborito in Shimousa Province' and 'Kabarinagashi' (Fly-Hook Angling).
Waterfalls in various provinces
It is a soroimono of eight ukiyoe landscapes as large-sized nishiki-e which described famous waterfalls all over the country with focus on the appearance of falling water. Hanmoto was Yohachi NISHIMURAYA (Eijudo), the same as "Fugaku sanju rokkei." Drawn by Zen Hokusai Iitsu (前北斎為一) around 1833.
Shimotsuke Kurokami-yama Kirifuri no Taki' (Kirifuri Falls at Mt. Kurokami in Shimotsuke Province), 'Soshu Oyama Roben no Taki' (Roben Falls at Oyama in Sagami Province), 'Toto Aoigaoka no Taki' (Aoigaoka Falls in the Eastern Capital), 'Tokaido Sakanoshita Kiyotaki Kannon' (Kiyotaki Kannon at Sakanoshita on the Tokai Road), 'Yoro Falls in Mino Province,' 'Amida Falls in the Depth of Kiso Road' (Hokusai Gallery 3), 'Kiso Kaido Ono no Bakufu' (Ono Falls on the Kiso Kaido Road), 'Yoshitsune Horse-wash Falls at Yoshino, Yamato Province.'
Spectacular views of famous bridges in various provinces
It is a soroimono of Ukiyoe landscapes, consisting of 11 pictures with unique bridges throughout the country as their subjects. It is a large-size nishiki-e. Drawn by Zen Hokusai Iitsu around 1833 - 34. Many of the bridges drawn in it actually exist, but some of them are legendary.
Mt. Tenpo at the Mouth of the Aji River in Settsu Province,' 'Kameido Tenjinsha Taikobashi' (Arched Bridge at Kameido Tenjin Shrine), 'Kumo no Kakehashi at Mt. Gyodo in Ashikaga,' 'Suo no Kuni Kintaihashi' (Kintai Bridge in Suo Province), 'Togetsu Bridge at Arashiyama in Yamashiro Province,' 'Tsukumo Bridge in Echizen Province,' 'Tenman Bridge in Settsu Province,' 'Hietsu no Sakai tsurihashi' (Suspension Bridge of Sakai at Hietsu) (See the right picture), 'Old Picture of Sano Funahashi in Kozuke Province', 'Yahagi Bridge at Okazaki on the Tokai Road,' and 'Old Picture of Yatsuhashi Bridge in Mikawa Province.'
Nikuhitsu Gajo (an album of original paintings)
It is a masterpiece album from his later years, consisting of ten pictures. Although it is an original drawing (color painting on paper), it was sold by Hanmoto, Yohachi NISHIMURAYA.
Drawn by Zen Hokusai Iitsu aratame Gakyo rojin Manji around 1834 - 1839,
It is said that Hokusai, who was forced to fall in the suspension of operations with publishers during the Tenpo Famine (1833 - 39), made a plan to drew many Nikuhitsu gajo and sell them in shops in order to avoid starvation. However, an advertisement for the sale of Nikuhitsu gajo, which was released before the great famine, is also known. Although there exists only one album today, it seems that several of Nikuhitsu gajo were sold in those days.
Adonis ramosa and a face of fan' (a picture in 'Sensu-Senmen' [fan on a fan], 'Taka' (hawk), 'Scissors and Sparrow,' 'A Gray-Headed Cuckoo and a Rainbow,' 'Salted Salmon and Mice' (Hokusai Gallery 13), 'A Sweetfish and Colored Leaves' (Hokusai Gallery 14), 'A Frog and Saxifrage' (Hokusai Gallery 15), 'A Butterfly and a Pink' (Hokusai Gallery 16), 'A Snake and a Small Bird,' (Cherry Flower and Pack), held at the Katsushika Hokusai Museum.
It is a picture book in three volumes. The first volume was published in 1834 and the second was published in 1835, but the year of publication for the third volume is not known (it is said to be very late). It was first published when he was 75 years old (the signature and seal were Hokusai aratame Iitsu). It is a sketch album of 102 pictures, a subject of which was Mt. Fuji and that cleverly included scenery and customs of people's lives in those days.
However, the afterword, which showed an uncommon motivation for painting, is more famous rather than the work itself.
I have had the habit of drawing shapes of things since I was six years old, and drawn many paintings since about 50 years of age. However, what I had drawn before 70 years old were all insignificant.'
(Although I was such a person,) I was able to know the births and structures of various creatures and plants to some extent by the time I reached 73 years of age.'
Therefore, I hope that my technique would get better by the age of 86, I would understand the secrets of art at the age of 90 and would reach the world of gods at the age of 100. (Then,) A point which I would draw over the age of 100 would be alive as if it had gained life.'
I hope that the god of longevity would see that my words aren't nonsense.'
I have had the habit of drawing shapes of things since I was six years old, and drawn many paintings since about 50 years of age.
However, what I had drawn before 70 years old were all insignificant.'
(Although I was such a person,) I was able to know the births and structures of various creatures and plants to some extent by the time I reached 73 years of age.'
Therefore, I hope that my technique would get better by the age of 86, I would understand the secrets of art at the age of 90 and would reach the world of gods at the age of 100.'
(Then,) A piece which I would draw over the age of 100 would be alive as if it had gained life.'
I hope that the god of longevity would see that my words aren't nonsense.'
Hyakunin Isshu (A Hundred Waka Poems by a Hundred Poets) Ubagaesetsu
In 1835, the signature and seal were Hokusai Manji. It's a soroimono of large-size nishiki-e that was produced in a project in which menoto (a woman breastfeeding a highborn baby) clearly explained the meaning of Hyakunin Isshu by paintings.
The original drawing at Obuse in Shinshu
Kozan TAKAI (1806 - 1883), a wealthy farmer and merchant who was born at Obuse in Shinshu, managed a brewery and had a wide knowledge including Yomei-gaku (neo-Confucianism based on the teachings of Wang Yangming), met Hokusai when he traveled to study at Edo, and became his disciple. Based on that relationship, a few years later, in the fall of 1842, Hokusai, then 83, visited the residence of Kozan at Obuse as if it had been along with way in his travels.
Kozan was deeply moved and treated him well by constructing a studio, 'Hekiiken.'
After that, Hokusai visited there four times. While in his stay, he made original drawings with the support of Kozan and devoted himself to his own world of painting. The ceiling picture of dashi (float) at a town in Obuse and another ceiling picture at Gansho-in Temple were drawn at that time.
Matsuri yatai tenjo-e (A ceiling picture for a festival float)
Kanmachi Matsuri yatai tenjo-e is "Angry Waves," which consists of the two pictures of 'Onami (High Wave)' and 'Menami (low wave)' (pictures are on the right of 'Biography and Timeline'). Higashi-machi Matsuri yatai tenjo-e consists of the two pictures of 'Hoo-zu' (the painting of a phoenix) (Hokusai Gallery 8) and "Ryu-zu" (the painting of a dragon).
The gorgeous design on the border of "Angry Waves" was drawn by Kozan based on a preliminary sketch by Hokusai. Despite the ban in those days, it includes a pair of the statue of an angel with wings, which recalls Christianity.
Happo Nirami Hoo-zu (the painting of a phoenix that glares in all directions)
Happo Nirami Hoo-zu
A painting of a large phoenix drawn on the ceiling of the large room in the main hall of Gansho-in Temple, the Soto sect, at Obuse in Shinshu. It was drawn in 1848, without a signature and seal, and it is said that it was written by Hokusai when he was 89 or 90 years old.
An original drawing (written on cypress board with color)
According to Tetsuji YURA, Hokusai visited Obuse four times since the age of 83, drew this painting during his fourth stay, in which he spent about a year, and died at age 90 a year after he had completed that challenging work and returned to Edo. However, today, it is confirmed that Hokusai met his disciple Hokuyo HONMA and gave him 'Oni-zu' (the painting of an ogre) (held at the present Sano Museum) at Asakusa of Edo on July 1848, which was regarded as the month in which Hokusai drew Happo Nirami Hoo-zu. Therefore, it becomes increasingly doubtful that Hokusai, who was 89 years old, visited Obuse and drew it with his own hand. At any rate, the phoenix that is drawn on the whole ceiling of the hall with the size of 21 jo (tatami mat) is so large that it is necessary to lie on the floor to see the entire work. It has the largest screen among the existing works that are said to have been drawn by Hokusai. It was drawn with vegetable-oil-based mineral pigments using many expensive mineral ores imported from Qing China, such as cinnabar, malachite and realgar. The cost was recorded as 150 ryo (a unit of currency). Additionally, the richly colored Zuiju (imaginary animals in ancient China), which is expressed with 4,400 gold leaves, has kept its vivid colors and gloss until today without repainting or any other repairs.
Additionally, in 1990 it was discovered by the head priest that the white space under the center of the screen that formed a reverse triangle (corresponds to the black space in the preliminary sketch shown on the right) was a kakushie (a painting that needs to look for) of Mt. Fuji. Moreover, it is assumed that it was pulled up to the ceiling after being drawn completely on the floor.
It is a soroimono of Shunga (erotic arts) in colored hanshibon (literally, "half book"), and its picture of 'The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife' (refer to the picture at right, in which The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife is included) is famous.
As to the major work "Fugaku sanju rokkei," refer to the section that describes it.
Picture 1: "Five Bijin-zu" (picture of a beautiful woman), an original drawing. Around 1808 - 1813, a work around the age of 50 when he began to use the go of Hokusai (the signature and seal were Hokusai KATSUSHIKA).
Picture 2: "The painting of carp," an original drawing (monochrome ink painting on paper). Around 1813, the signature and seal were Hokusai.
Picture 3: "Amida Falls in the Depth of the Kiso Road," a picture of ukiyoe landscapes soroimono, "Waterfalls in Various Provinces." It's a famous fall at the foot of Mt. Bishamon-dake, in Mino Province. A geometric composition of the space upstream, like a circular mirror, and the stream of the fall conveys solemnity and mystery.
Picture 4: "Oiwa-san of Hyakumonogatari", a painting of Oiwa-san, who is a character of Yotsuya Kaidan, among the five pictures of "Hyakumonogatari." It describes Oiwa's look with a curse that appears on a paper lantern.
Picture 6: "A self-portrait at the age of 83," a self-portrait when Hokusai was 82 years old (83 in the age by the traditional Japanese system) in 1842. An original drawing (monochrome ink painting on paper). It was drawn on a letter in which he answered questions about his works that were drawn when he was 41 or 42 years of age, and the signature and seal were Hachijusansai Hachiemon (八十三歳八右衛門). It is held by Leiden National Museum of Ethnology in the Netherlands.
Picture 7: 'Samurai,' an original drawing
Picture 8: "Hoo-zu" Obuse in Shinshu, Higashimachi Matsuri yatai tenjoe (a colored original drawing on paulownia board).
Picture 9: "A large-size album of flowers and birds, garden poppy, Nishimuraya edition" a painting among the ten of the Kacho-ga (paintings of flowers and birds) soroimono. Around 1833 - 34, the signature and seal were Zen Hokusai Iitsu.
Picture 10: 'Kakurezato' of "Hokusai Manga," a painting on the traditional Japanese legend "Hidden Villages of Mice."
There is a colored picture by the second Kuniteru UTAGAWA in 'Mice in the Story of Mice.'
Picture 11: "Naga-oban Kacho-zu Taki ni Koi" (a long and large-sized painting of flowers and birds, Fall and a carp), a painting among the five Kacho-ga paintings soroimono. Around 1834, the signature and seal were Zen Hokusai Iitsu.
Picture 12: "Shokei Kiran Lake Suwa in Shinshu" (Spectacular landscapes) (勝景奇覧), a painting among the eight pictures. Uchiwa-e (a painting on an Uchiwa fan). In 1830 - 1844, the signature and seal were Zen Hokusai Manji.
Picture 13: "Nikuhitsu gajo: Salmon and Mice," a painting on the album "Nikuhitsu gajo," a masterpiece from Hokusai's later years, consisting of ten paintings.
Picture 14: "Nikuhitsu gajo: A sweetfish and colored leaves," same as above.
Picture 15: "Nikuhitsu gajo: A frog and saxifrage," same as above.
Picture 16: "Nikuhitsu gajo: flatfish and pink," same as above.
Picture 17: "The painting of Bunbuku chagama (The Magic Teakettle)," an original drawing (monochrome ink painting on paper). It was drawn around 1797.
Picture 18: "Sekki no Shoka" (a mercantile house in the year's end, an original drawing. Drawn by Hokusai or his disciple. It is said that Philipp Franz von Siebold, a doctor of the Dutch trading house, brought it to his country. It is held by National Museum of Ethnology in the Netherlands.
Picture 19: "Hotei-zu (the God of Contentment)," an original drawing (monochrome ink painting on paper).
Picture 21: "A fisherman smoking with kiseru ([tobacco] pipe with metal tipped stem), a print. In 1835, with a hymn written by the artist. Some people say this is his self-portrait.