Spotlight Artist: Japan- Hokusai

Katsushika Hokusai

The Great Wave off Kanagawa

Woodblock print

Ukiyo-e period, 1829-1832

Art Code: "Enjoy being in the moment."


Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾 北斎, listen) was a Japanese artist, ukiyo-e painter and printmaker of the Edo period.Born in Edo (now Tokyo), Hokusai is best known as author of the woodblock print series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (c. 1831) which includes the internationally iconic print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa.

Hokusai created the Thirty-Six Views both as a response to a domestic travel boom and as part of a personal obsession with Mount Fuji. It was this series, specifically The Great Wave print and Fine Wind, Clear Morning, that secured Hokusai’s fame both in Japan and overseas. As historian Richard Lane concludes, "Indeed, if there is one work that made Hokusai's name, both in Japan and abroad, it must be this monumental print-series". While Hokusai's work prior to this series is certainly important, it was not until this series that he gained broad recognition.

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Sorry for the goofy music.

Essential Questions

  • One element of Coach's Art Code is "Be in the moment.". Based on the readings and videos, what does the work of Hokusai and other traditional Japanese art teach us about mindfulness or "being in the moment??

  • Why did Japanese artist produce prints rather than individual paintings?

  • The term "ukiyo-e" means "pictures of a floating world. Why would this be the term used to describe this kind of art?

  • What are some other kinds of printmaking? hint: see the "what is a print?" website on your computer. Requires Flash.

  • What are some common subjects in this art form? If they were made today, what kinds of scenes might we expect to see?

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