25. May - 13. August 2017 British Museum


Under the wave off Kanagawa (The Great Wave) from Thirty-six views of Mt Fuji. Colour woodblock, 1831. Acquisition supported by the Art Fund. © The Trustees of the British Museum.
Clear day with a southern breeze (‘Red Fuji’) from Thirty-six Views of Mt Fuji.
Colour woodblock, 1831. © The Trustees of the British Museum.
Shoki painted in red. Hanging scroll, ink and red pigment on silk, 1846.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of Mrs Charles Stewart Smith.

Japanese Art In The British Museum

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) has long enjoyed a strong international reputation and is considered by many to be Japan’s greatest artist.

The exhibition will shed light on Hokusai’s personal beliefs and his spiritual and artistic quest through major paintings, drawings, woodblock prints and illustrated books. Many have never been seen before in the UK and can only be displayed for a limited length of time.

From iconic landscapes and wave pictures to deities and mythological beasts, from flora and fauna to beautiful women, from collaborations with other painters and writers to still lives – the works on show will be extraordinarily varied, with objects drawn from the British Museum’s superb collection and many loans from Japan, Europe and the United States.

Hokusai’s most iconic print, 'The Great Wave' will be featured, a fine, early impression acquired in 2008 by the British Museum with the assistance of the Art Fund.

Hokusai created this world renowned masterpiece when he was about seventy. Mount Fuji and its wider spiritual significance was a model for Hokusai in his quest for immortality during his later years.

The print series 'Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji' (published around 1831-33) revived Hokusai’s career after personal challenges of the late 1820s.

'The Great Wave', with its use of deep perspective and imported Prussian blue pigment, reflects how Hokusai adapted and experimented with European artistic style.

Also shown will be a rare group of paintings from the National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, done in a unique European-influenced style, which were commissioned from Hokusai by employees of the Dutch East India Company in about 1824-1826.  

Throughout his career, and particularly in the later years, Hokusai’s paintings brought vividly to life an extraordinary bestiary of dragons, Chinese lions, phoenixes and eagles, and forcefully energised depictions of mythological figures and holy men.

He also continued to use landscape and wave imagery as a major subject and he became increasingly interested in exploring in his art the mutability and minutiae of the observable world – particularly birds, animals and plants and other natural subjects.

The exhibition will take place from May 25-August 13, 2017 in the British Museum in London and will provide new insight into the prodigiously productive last thirty years of Hokusai’s life and art from around 1820 to 1849.   

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