(1760-1849), Japanese painter and wood engraver, born in Edo (now Tokyo). He
is considered one of the outstanding figures of the Ukiyo-e, or "pictures of
the floating world" (everyday life), school of printmaking.
entered the studio of his countryman Katsukawa Shunsho in 1775 and there
learned the new, popular technique of woodcut printmaking. Between 1796 and
1802 he produced a vast number of book illustrations and color prints,
perhaps as many as 30,000, that drew their inspiration from the traditions,
legends, and lives of the Japanese people. Hokusai's most typical wood-block
prints, silkscreens, and landscape paintings were done between 1830 and
1840. The free curved lines characteristic of his style gradually developed
into a series of spirals that imparted the utmost freedom and grace to his
work, as in Raiden, the Spirit of Thunder.
In his late
works Hokusai used large, broken strokes and a method of coloring that
imparted a more somber mood to his work, as in his massive Group of
Workmen Building a Boat. Among his best-known works are the 13-volume
sketchbook Hokusai manga (begun 1814) and the series of block prints
known as the Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (circa 1826-33).
Hokusai is generally more appreciated in the West than in Japan. His prints,
as well as those by other Japanese printmakers, were imported to Paris in
the mid-19th century. They were enthusiastically collected, especially by
such impressionist artists as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Henri
Toulouse-Lautrec, whose work was profoundly influenced by them.