The Great Wave in Kanagawa, Katsushika Hokusai
"And in the beginning was the wave. Smooth, beautiful, but also relentlessly cruel, landing on Mount Fuji. "
This is not a movie scene, this is the life of Katsushika Hokusai. Although most connoisseurs of painting recognize the painting "The Great Wave of Kanagawa," few know the story of its eccentric creator Katsuushika Hokusai. Although he has produced nearly 30 000 works throughout his life, it is not until the age of 60 that he begins to make art.
His painting, recreating a powerful wave coming over three boats and the view of Mount Fuji, makes the artist a leader in the impressionistic current in Europe. The deep blue in the paintings is due to the use of Prussian blue paint, which was produced in China but imported through England or Germany.
Thanks to his uncle's life, Hokusai was able to reach the elite of medieval Japan and study in the best schools. He worked as a servant under the governor of medieval Japan. At that time, learning was about perfecting the students' drawing skills, where Hokusai was able to stand out from the rest at the age of 6. In his early years, as a teenager, he worked as a library assistant. He then studied the secrets of woodcarving, where he was able to perfect himself, and later to create some of his most famous creations.
When he was 19 years old, he was accepted into the class of Katsukawa Shunsho - the creator of the ukiyo-e style (translated "paintings of the floating world"). The style featured traditional drawings and printed graphics, and along with them, Hokusai managed to create the first 3D board game model. During the 1814 - 1819 years, his drawings inspired many artists to copy it, even creating the first manga, the Hokusai Manga Book.
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Despite his professional successes, he is followed by family dramas and failures in his personal life. Both his children and his two wives were killed before his eyes. At 50, lightning struck him. At the age of 60, he is forced to pay his grandson's gambling debts and is in financial difficulty. This inspires the artist to return to his inner self and begin his famous series of canvases "36 overlooks Mount Fuji". The most famous painting among them was painted in the 1830 year and is entitled "The Great Wave of Kanagawa".
Part of the "36 Views of Mount Fuji" series, Katsushika Hokusai
The exact year of Hokusai's birth is not known for sure. He is believed to have been born on 30 on October 1760. His birth name is Tokitaro. He changed his name over 30 times during his creative career. And although this was a well-known reception among artists at the time, Hokusai managed to come up with a new nickname every few years. Among his famous names were Shunro, Sori, Kako, Taito, Hakiyodin, and of course the name with which he remained in history - Katsushika Hokusai. Katsuushika refers to Edo, Tokyo's former name until 1868 - where he was born, and Hokusai means Northern Studio.
Although famous and talented, the art created by Hokusai failed to delight Western audiences until his death in 1849. Throughout his creative life, Japan has been subjugated to the Sakoku system ("closed country"). It bans foreigners from visiting the country and punishes severely those Japanese who dare to leave the country. But after the arrival of the US Navy, in the 50 years of XX century, Japan emerged from isolation. This leads thousands of officers, diplomats, artists and collectors in the country, including Claude Monet himself, eager to absorb foreign culture.
But as much as they were interested in culture, for the Americans and the Western colonizers, Japan was still in the Middle Ages. The gap between it and the Western world was widening. There were few Western artists who thoroughly and honestly understood the purity of Japanese art. Only after defeating the Russian army in World War I did Japan manage to win its hegemonic status on the European stage. It also manages to maintain the purity, simplicity and elegance with which Europeans admire.
Monet was able to personally acquire over 250 paintings by various Japanese artists, including Hokusai. They adorned the walls of his house in northern France. Few know that part of Monet's work was an experiment. His attempts to make one object stand out among the many monotonous elements are inspired by the works of Hokusai himself.
But as much as Europeans tried to integrate into the Hokusai style, it was as if the author and the European audience were looking at each other on the same mirror.
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