Hokusai and Japanese Woodblock Prints

Hokusai booksChristina here. Ever since I lived in Japan, I’ve been drawn to Japanese woodblock prints. They are both simple and beautiful, and the variety of subjects is endless. Mostly they depict nature and/or people and places, and one of the absolute masters of this art was Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). I think most people are familiar with his most famous print known as The Great Wave, which was actually entitled Under the Wave off Kanagawa. I love how he managed to create such wonderful scenes with just a few brushstrokes and his prints really show the Japanese way of life as it was back then.

HokusaiHe is mostly known for his landscape prints and paintings, but he was also the most amazing illustrator for various types of books. Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend an exhibition at the British Museum in London of some of his preliminary sketches and drawings for one such, a sort of picture encyclopedia that was going to be called The Great Picture Book of Everything. It was extremely interesting to see how he’d gone about creating the prints and where he got his ideas from. Most of the drawings were quite tiny and a little dark, but all were exquisite and showed his sense of humour and incredible imagination.

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