Hokusai: the blue, foam-crested wave rearing above Mount Fuji; the celebrated volcano idealized and reinventedby the artist in every nuance of view, season and painting; extraordinary bridges, the waterfalls of Japan, the contortions, costumes, gestures – the very breath of men, women, peasants, townsmen, warriors, artisans, leaping horses, birds, insects, fish, almost live on the ground on which they are painted – the countless imaginative drawings or the lively sketches done on the spot for the Manga, Hokusai’s record of shapes and forms drawn from life or imagined over time. With a body of work comprising more than 30,000 drawings and paintings, Hokusai (1760–1849) was the most prolific, varied and indisputably the most creative artist of old Japan. A universal genius in everything that constituted drawing and painting in his time, he practised all genres of ukiyo-e, those ‘images of the floating world’, as his contemporaries liked to describe their pleasures and their daily life.
This book traces the career of this child from a working-class district of old Tokyo, then known as Edo, evoking the special atmosphere of this great city and of Japanese life, when Japan – closed to foreigners – developed in a vacuum a powerfully original culture. Hokusai became one of the great masters of the woodcut, this ‘brush gone wild’, as he called himself, being rediscovered by the Impressionists and aesthetes at the end of the 19th century. He remains one of the greatest and – thanks to his personality – one of the most attractive figures of world art.