Hokusai and His Followers
Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) was the foremost master of ukiyo-e wood block prints during the final century of their production. He is well accepted in the West as one of the greatest figures in Japanese art, and has received well-deserved acclaim as a superior draughtsman, humorist, lover of nature, and, in his later life, as an outspoken eccentric. Hokusai had an extremely long-lived and prolific career, attesting to the single-mindled will of this colorful artist. During his seventy years of continuous artistic creation, he produced over thirty thousand designs for sumptuous surimono prints, many series of bird, flower, and nature scenes, erotic illustrated books and single sheets, and a wide variety of human subjects and cityscapes in prints and illustrated books. He had many pupils during his lifetime, and influenced both contemporaries and generations of later artists around the world.
The RISD Museum houses a wide selection of ukiyo-e prints and illustrated books by Hokusai and his followers. On display is a representative cross-section of his genius: from careful studies of birds and flowers, countless renditions of beloved Mt. Fuji and various Japanese landscapes, to humorous portrayals of wrestlers and craftsmen or deluxe editions of surimono prints. Hokusai never fails to impress the viewer with his sense of design and his humanism. We might remember Hokusai by his own words, written at seventy-six years of age:
"From the age of five, I have had a mania for sketching the forms of things. From about the age of fifty, I produced a number of designs, yet of all I drew prior to the age of seventy there is truly nothing of any great note. At the age of seventy-two I finally apprehended something of the true quality of birds, animals, insects, fish and of the vital nature of grasses and trees. Therefore, at eighty I shall have made some progress, at ninety I shall have penetrated even further into the deeper meaning of things, at one hundred I shall have become truly marvelous, and at one hundred and ten, each dot, each line shall surely possess a life of its own! I only beg that gentlemen of sufficiently long life take care to note the truth of my words."