Cover of Sandra Forty: Hokusai

Sandra Forty Hokusai

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Katsushika Hokusai is the most famous of a sequence of names used by a versatile and long-lived Japanese artist who worked in many genres and schools, evolving a unique style that made him known then as well as now as a true master. He was an unusual and restless man who slipped boundaries and made fresh connections, yet never sought great wealth or position. Hokusai produced over 30,000 different designs, prints, illustrations, paintings, and sketches. He is especially known for bringing perspective to the traditional one-dimensional woodblock color print. This revolutionary introduction caused him to be viewed by his contemporaries as a truly radical artist. His impact was felt far beyond Japan. The French Impressionists, among others, were strongly influenced by his use of color and space. Most well known for his Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, which is really 46 when he created another 10 views after the original series was complete, Hokusai also perfected the art of manga (comics), book illustrations, and erotic art. Still painting at the age of 87, Hokusai died two years later. His three-line death poem reads: “Even as a ghost, I shall gaily tread, the summer moors.” His work is evocative of that gentle sentiment.

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