Hokusai A Life in Drawing

Henri-Alexis Baatsch

A deluxe, large-format edition of this beautifully illustrated introduction to Katsushika Hokusai, the most prolific artist of Japan's Edo period and master of ukiyo-e—"images of the floating world."

Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) was the most prolific and diverse artist of Japan's Edo period, with a body of work reputed to include more than 30,000 drawings, paintings, and prints. Hokusai traces the career of this child from a working-class district of old Tokyo, then known as Edo, evoking the special atmosphere of this great city and of Japanese life at a time when Japan was closed to foreigners. Its urban centers enjoyed increasing wealth and stability, leading to a flourishing culture of art and pleasure-seeking. Woodblock prints of the genre known as ukiyo-e—"images of the floating world"—became defining images of the age.

Hokusai became one of the great masters of the woodcut. His works range from portraits of popular actors and courtesans to landscapes and seascapes, including his celebrated "Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji," and from cleverly observed scenes of everyday life to the erotic prints known as shunga. This "brush gone wild," as he called himself, was rediscovered by the Impressionists and aesthetes at the end of the nineteenth century. While his prints had a huge influence on the course of Western art, it is equally true that he himself was influenced by European painting, embracing techniques such as perspective and adapting them to suit Japanese tastes. He remains one of the greatest figures of world art.


Henri-Alexis Baatsch


Henri-Alexis Baatsch is a writer and translator who lived in Tokyo in 1981 and again from 1984 to 1986, during which time he wrote an essay on Hokusai, revised for this book. He is the author of several plays and numerous books, including Henri Michaux: Painter and Poetry and Questions of Style.