The 10 Most Famous Artworks of Katsushika Hokusai
Artworks include The Great Wave at Kanagawa, Fine Wind, Clear Morning, and The Ghost of Oiwa
Katsushika Hokusai, (葛飾 北斎, c. 31 October 1760 – 10 May 1849) known simply as Hokusai, was a Japanese artist, ukiyo-e painter and printmaker of the Edo period. Hokusai is best known for the woodblock print series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji which includes the internationally iconic print The Great Wave off Kanagawa.
Hokusai created the monumental Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji both as a response to a domestic travel boom in Japan and as part of a personal obsession with Mount Fuji. It was this series, specifically The Great Wave off Kanagawa and Fine Wind, Clear Morning, that secured his fame both in Japan and overseas. While Hokusai’s work prior to this series is certainly important, it was not until this series that he gained broad recognition.
niood lists the 10 most famous artworks of Hokusai:
The Great Wave off Kanagawa (神奈川沖浪裏, Kanagawa-oki nami ura, “Under a wave off Kanagawa”), also known as The Great Wave or simply The Wave, is a woodblock print by the Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hokusai. It was published sometime between 1829 and 1833 in the late Edo period as the first print in Hokusai’s series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. It is Hokusai’s most famous work, and one of the most recognizable works of Japanese art in the world.
The image depicts an enormous wave threatening boats off the coast of the town of Kanagawa (the present-day city of Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture). While sometimes assumed to be a tsunami, the wave is more likely to be a large rogue wave. As in many of the prints in the series, it depicts the area around Mount Fuji under particular conditions, and the mountain itself appears in the background.
This is the most famous print created by Katsushika Hokusai, and it continues to grow in popularity and recognition worldwide. The image is of two boats, full of Japanese sailors, coming up against the namesake of the print, the Great Wave. The wave looks as if it will swallow the boats whole, and that the boat men are sure to be devoured in the wave. Although it is such a strong image, it is simplistically beautiful, with curling blue waves and white frothy tips, which menacingly curl down into points, like claws ready to scoop the sailors out of the sea.
The Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji series is one of Hokusai’s benchmark works in the famous scenery genre and indeed is historically important as the series that established the famous sites genre in ukiyo-e prints. This print from the series, known by its nickname “Red Fuji,” and The Great Wave off Kanagawa known as “The Great Wave,” are two particularly renowned works from the series. Compared to the complex coiling composition of the Great Wave, this print is clear and straightforward compositionally, with the bulk of Mt. Fuji traversed by trailing clouds. In addition to images by Hokusai, While Hokusai’s images of the sacred mountain were just part of its long history of pictorial depiction, this work has an unparalleled focus on its simple shape. This scene is possibly the mountain dyed red by the dawn sun, as early summer “fine winds” blow from the south. The resulting reddish tone of Mt. Fuji’s slopes is recorded in other paintings and written accounts, but here Hokusai has not simply created a red mountain surface, he heightened that colored surface to create a more striking contrast with the surrounding colors.
The Ghost of Oiwa is one of the most famous Japanese artwork ever produced. It was published during the Edo period by artist Katsushika Hokusai between 1760-1849 and published by Tsuruya Kiemon. It follows the story of Oiwa, whose face is disfigured after her samurai husband poisons her so that he can marry into a wealthy family. Her husband hires an assassin to poison and dump Oiwa’s body in a river. Her husband treats here cruelly, even though she is still recovering from the birth of their first child.
She returns in various forms to seek revenge and kill anyone associated with her husband. In the end however, it is Oiwa’s brother who kills him to avenge his sister’s spirit. In this artwork, the picture is painted big with no details in the background. The ghost has a sulky face that gives a haunting sensation. This is in addition to the sparse hair, sad bloodshot eyes and eerie eye bags that droop from her face probably from the effects of the poison.
The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife is an erotic woodcut of the ukiyo-e genre made around 1820 by the Japanese artist Hokusai. Perhaps the first instance of tentacle eroticism, it depicts a woman entwined sexually with a pair of octopuses, the smaller of which kisses her while the larger one performs cunnilingus. A shot of the work printed on a postcard that is being looked at by Anaïs Nin (Maria de Medeiros) at the beginning of the 1990 film Henry & June earned that movie the very first NC-17 film rating. It is no coincidence that the wife in question is a fisherman’s wife, the significance of the absence of men in fishermen’s villages is also testified by the fact the first dildos were found in fishermen’s villages.
The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife is often cited as an early forerunner of tentacle erotica, a motif that has been common in modern Japanese animation and manga since the late 20th century. Modern tentacle erotica similarly depicts sex between human women and tentacled beasts; notably, however, the sex in modern depictions is typically forced, as opposed to Hokusai’s mutually pleasurable interaction. Psychologist and critic Jerry S. Piven, however, is skeptical that Hokusai’s playful image could account for the violent depictions in modern media, arguing that these are instead a product of the turmoil experienced throughout Japanese culture following World War II, which was in turn reflective of pre-existing, underlying currents of cultural trauma. However, scholar Holger Briel argues that “only in a society that already has a predilection for monsters and is used to interacting with octopods such images might arise,” citing Hokusai’s print an early exemplar of such a tradition.
Hokusai was commissioned to paint the interiors of several buildings during his later years at Gansho-in in Obuse, Japan, and one of the paintings he did was of the mighty Phoenix. The Phoenix to the Japanese culture is a symbol of peace. The mythical bird represents justice, obedience, fire, fidelity, the southern star constellation and the sun. Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849) was indeed a great painter and print artist.
The Hokusai Manga (北斎漫画, “Hokusai’s Sketches”) is a collection of sketches of various subjects by the Japanese artist Hokusai. Subjects of the sketches include landscapes, flora and fauna, everyday life and the supernatural.
The word manga in the title does not refer to the contemporary story-telling manga, as the sketches in the work are not connected to each other. Block-printed in three colours (black, gray and pale flesh), the Manga comprise thousands of images in fifteen volumes, the first published in 1814, when the artist was 55.
The final three volumes were published posthumously, two of them assembled by their publisher from previously unpublished material. The final volume was made up of previously published works, some not even by Hokusai, and is not considered authentic by art historians.
Hokusai’s striking series “A Thousand Views of the Sea and Waterside” is considered one of the great landscape series from the later part of his career. Focusing on fishing and the movement of water, Hokusai’s images beautifully capture mesmerizing scenes on the ocean, at the beaches, and along the rivers of Edo era Japan. Today collectors prize these beautiful old reprints from the “Sea and Waterside” as they are rarely seen in the market compared to Hokusai’s more famous “Thirty-six Views of Fuji” series.
The Ono Waterfall was one of the famous sights on the Kisokaido, the road which ran east to west over the inland mountains between Edo and Kyoto. On a small tributary of the Kiso River, the falls are near Agematsu, formerly the thirty-ninth station on the highway (now in Kiso district, Nagano Prefecture).
In this view, a small Shinto shrine stands on a rocky promontory near the falls. The Japanese have traditionally believed that remarkable natural phenomena indicate the presence of a kami, or Shinto god, and waterfalls were often a destination for religious adepts, who purified themselves beneath the icy torrents. The people in this image, however, seem to be ordinary travelers, happy to marvel at the falls from the safety of the bridge.
Part of a collection called Quick Lessons in Simplified Drawing, Hokusai’s brief articulations of the cranes capture their elegant movements and postures. The light and airy image is a reflection of the ease with which Hokusai depicted the birds, and demonstrates his skill in exploring the relationship between gesture and form.
Tenma Bridge in Setsu Province is an example of the Nishiki-e woodblock print technique. Usually used within the ukiyo-e style, nishiki-e revolutionized printmaking. The technique involved creating a woodblock for each colour used in a print, which made the process faster and more thorough than it has been in the past when printmakers coloured prints by hand or used one or two ink blocks to add colour to a print. The gradually fading blues of the river at the centre of Tenma Bridge in Setsu Province is a fine example of the nishiki-e technique.