Did you know that Katsushika Hokusai was born in 1760? He was a Japanese artist best known for his ukiyo-e paintings. Ukiyo-e are woodblock prints, made by carving out an image on wood, applying ink, and then stamping the image on to paper or cloth. Each color on the final painting is added using a different woodblock. The traditional image for ukiyo-e paintings were portraits, but Hokusai’s ukiyo-e focused on landscapes and images of daily life. His most famous print is The Great Wave off Kanagawa.
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Hokusai was known by at least 30 different names.
In 1804, Hokusai created a sensation by painting a portrait of Daruma, a Buddhist priest. The picture was supposedly 600 feet long. He used buckets to hold the ink and brooms to paint with.
In another untraditional painting, Hokusai painted a blue curve on paper, dipped a live chicken’s feet into red ink, and chased the chicken across the paper. The resulting image represented a river with red maple leaves floating in it.
Hokusai’s art did not just impact artists and culture in Japan. His art influenced European artists and culture as well. Western artists who collected or were influenced by Hokusai’s work include Monet, Renoir, van Gogh, Manet, Degas and Gauguin.
The ukiyo-e artist initially draws their design on paper. The paper is then glued to a wood block and carved out by another artist. For each color, a separate woodblock is carved to show the features in that color in relief. After the woodblocks were complete another artist would apply ink to those blocks in order to create the final print.
The Great Wave off Kanagawa was part of a series of prints, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. Each print features a different view of Mount Fuji. About 5,000 prints were made from the original printing blocks for The Great Wave off Kanagawa.