Katsushika Hokusai

1760 - 1849

Group of Workmen Building a Boat
ca. 1840-49

Yoko-e (landscape orientation)



Group of Workmen Building a Boat is one of Hokusai's later works. His coloring method in broken brushstrokes is intended to impart a more somber mood, reflecting his own sad mood at the time.

Hokusai is one of the most influential minds in the history of Japanese art. He was famous in Edo-period Japan and he was globally recognized years after his death. He described himself as the "old man mad about drawing." He changed his name nearly 30 times during his life and known for his unconventional behavior. He settled on the name Katsushika Hokusai in 1800. He never attained financially success even with his fame, living in poverty during the high point of his career. He was constantly on the move, picking up his studio and moving closer to new subject matter sparking inspiration.

At age 19, Hokusai enterd the Katsukawa Shunsh School of Arts and studied there over the span of fourteen years. He also studied under Katsukawa's rival , the Kan School. He was expelled from Katsukawa Shunsh many times, most likely due to the division of loyalty to one school.

Hokusai focused on landscape representations and everyday life themes. Between 1796 and 1802, he produced 13,000 colored prints and book illustrations of everyday life, legends and traditions of Japanese culture.

The artist had a fascination with European imagery in the early 19th century and attempted to imitate similar aesthetics depeicting human relationships, social situations, and popular stories. In the growth of his artistic development, he refined his technique on rendering human figures, animals, and lanscapes with realism and character, bringing them to life.

Some of his more well known works are from his series of mangas, Hokusai Manga, illustrating caricatures and skits which profoundly influenced modern cartoons, manga and Japanese anime television series.

One of his most famous prints is The Great Wave and is frequently reproduced on various merchanize today. In the work, Hokusai's iconic swirls fill the foam of a large wave looking as if it will swallow Mount Fuji, a small peak in the distance. A boat rocks in the water under the shadow of the large wave.


National Gallery of Victoria. "Hokusai: Artwork Labels." https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Hokusai_LargePrintLabel_170720.pdf

Unknown. "Hokusai." (n.d.) Blog Interieurs Art.fr. http://blog.art.fr/informations-les-artistes-celebres/hokusai/