Katsushika Hokusai is regarded as one of the most influential and creative minds in the history of Japanese art. His unique social observations, innovative approach to design and mastery of the brush, made him the most famous and popular artist of Edo period Japan as well as an internationally recognised artist. A self-professed ‘drawing maniac’, Hokusai was known by at least thirty names during his lifetime and was renowned for his unconventional behaviour. Although gaining fame during his lifetime he never attained financial success. His years of greatest artistic production were conducted in poverty, living in a hut by the Sumida River or spent travelling, drawing and painting. These uncertainties in life and constant contact with the working people contributed to his eccentric style, raw genius and everlasting popularity.
In 1909 the NGV purchased five works from Hokusai’s iconic Thirty-six views of Mt Fuji series including his most celebrated image The great wave, two works from his Tour of famous waterfalls series and four other major works. These astute acquisitions established a legacy of Japanese art in Australia that has now extended for over one hundred years.
Hokusai features 129 prints, four paintings and ten rare books on loan from the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, Matsumoto, with special features including a selection of Hokusai’s early works and complete sets of his most famous series’ including Thirty six views of Mount Fuji, Tour of famous waterfalls, Unusual views of celebrated bridges, Eight views of the Ryukyu Islands, Birds and flowers and Ghost tales.
A selection of NGV Collection works including The great wave will be exhibited as exhibition focus points beside corresponding works from the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, giving visitors the opportunity to view different impressions of the same image side-by-side and allowing the NGV’s Hokusai prints to be put in a scholarly context for the first time.
Further highlights of the exhibition will include a section of Hokusai’s books featuring his iconic manga (comical drawings) in special multimedia projections. A further selection of original Hokusai paintings on loan from Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, will mark the first time Hokusai’s works in this medium will be exhibited in Australia.