Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) was a Japanese ukiyo-e painter and printmaker, widely regarded as one of the most influential artists in Japanese history. He was born in the Edo district of Japan, in what is now Tokyo. His father was Nakajima Ise, a mirror-maker for the shogun, and his mother was named Koto.
Hokusai's childhood was marked by financial difficulties, and he was sent to live with a mirror maker at the age of six. At the age of 14, he was apprenticed to a woodblock printer named Katsukawa Shunshō, who would become one of his major influences.
In his personal life, Hokusai was married twice and had several children. His first wife, whose name is unknown, bore him two sons and a daughter, while his second wife, Koto, bore him another two daughters. Hokusai also had a close relationship with his daughter Oei, who became an accomplished artist in her own right.
Over the course of his career, Hokusai worked at several different studios and under various patrons. His most significant workplace was the studio of the publisher Nishimuraya Yohachi, where he produced many of his most famous prints. However, he also worked for other publishers and produced work for private collectors.
Hokusai was heavily influenced by his mentor, Katsukawa Shunshō, as well as by the work of other ukiyo-e artists of his time. He was also influenced by Western art, particularly Dutch prints, which were then becoming available in Japan.
Hokusai is known for his innovative techniques and distinctive style, which often featured bold lines, bright colors, and a keen sense of perspective. He was particularly skilled at depicting natural landscapes and seascapes, as well as mythological creatures and other fantastical subjects.
Hokusai's impact on Japanese art and culture was profound. He played a key role in popularizing ukiyo-e prints, which had previously been considered a lowbrow art form. He also inspired many later artists, including the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, who admired his use of color and composition.
Here are five of Hokusai's most important paintings:
The Great Wave off Kanagawa - This iconic print depicts a towering wave about to crash down on several boats, and has become one of the most famous images in Japanese art.
Red Fuji - This print depicts the volcano Mount Fuji as seen from a distance, with a striking red hue.
Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji - This series of prints features Mount Fuji in various landscapes and seasons, and is considered one of Hokusai's most important works.
The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife - This erotic print depicts a woman being pleasured by two octopuses, and is notable for its unusual subject matter.
A Tour of the Waterfalls of the Provinces - This series of prints depicts various waterfalls throughout Japan, and showcases Hokusai's skill at capturing the natural beauty of his country.