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25 July 2017

Hokusai is the first major presentation in Australia of one of Japan’s most influential, prolific and everlastingly popular artists, Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849).  An influential master of Japanese manga and a self-proclaimed ‘drawing maniac’, Hokusai produced a body of work comprising some of the most recognisable and reproduced images in the history of Asian art, most notably ‘The great wave’.

Katsushika Hokusai Japanese 1760–1849 The great wave off Kanagawa (The great wave) (Kanagawa oki namiura) (1830–34) from the Thirty-six views of Mt Fuji (Fugaku-sanjū-rokkei) series colour woodblock 25.7 × 37.7 cm (image and sheet) National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Felton Bequest, 1909 (426-2)

Katsushika Hokusai Japanese 1760–1849 The great wave off Kanagawa (The great wave) (Kanagawa oki namiura) (1830–34) from the Thirty-six views of Mt Fuji (Fugaku-sanjū-rokkei) series colour woodblock 25.7 × 37.7 cm (image and sheet) National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Felton Bequest, 1909 (426-2)

Spanning the artist’s entire career, Hokusai includes more than 170 works by the artist, comprising woodblock prints, rare paintings on silk never-before-seen in Australia and hand-printed manga (illustrated books).

Produced in a landmark international collaboration between the NGV and the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum (JUM), which houses the world’s largest and oldest collection of traditional Japanese woodblock prints, the exhibition includes the complete sets of Hokusai’s five career-defining series – all produced by the artist during his seventies and rarely on display in their totality – including Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, 1830–34, which features his iconic work The great wave off Kanagawa, c. 1830.

The exhibition also features all fifteen editions of The Hokusai Manga, the artist’s irreverent homage to Japanese humorous illustrations, which had an indelible impact on the development of contemporary manga in Japan and positioned Hokusai as a pioneer of the popular form.

‘Katsushika Hokusai is considered one of Japan’s greatest and enduringly popular artists. His moving and dramatic compositions, including The great wave, show the coexistence between humanity and the awesome power of nature, a relationship that is as relevant today as it was in the nineteenth century,’ said Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV.

The great wave off Kanagawa was acquired for the NGV Collection in 1909. In Hokusai, this work, rarely displayed due to its fragility and light sensitivity, is exhibited alongside a corresponding early impression of the same great wave from JUM’s collection, offering a fascinating scholarly assessment of the prints 180 years after they were created.

Katsushika Hokusai is lauded for his wondrously colourful images that celebrate everyday life and people’s relationship to nature, often depicting the merchant class of Edo period Japan in recognisable situations and landscapes.

Hokusai’s work had a transformative impact on Japanese art; he was at the forefront of new technologies, using the latest and most vibrant colours as they became available, such as Prussian blue, and his experimentation with design, composition and perspective introduced a three-dimensionality to the traditionally two-dimensional Japanese pictorial aesthetic.

Hokusai is on display at NGV International until – 15 October 2017.

Visit NGV for details