In One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji, Hokusai’s views of this sacred mountain exemplify his genius as a draftsman, his rich imagination, and his exploratory spirit. While Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji situated the mountain in the landscape of Japan, One Hundred Views explored the mountain in Hokusai’s imagination. The first volume opens with the Shinto deity of Mt.Fuji, Konohananosakuya-hime, “the one who makes the flowers bloom,” a sacred mirror in one hand, a branch of the sakaki tree in the other. From a coiling dragon beneath the summit, to the aftermath of Mt. Fuji’s eruption, each page explores Mt. Fuji through a fresh lens. To Hokusai, the mountain symbolized a longevity, a concept with which he had become fixated. In the colophon to the first volume, Hokusai expresses his fervent desire to reach age one hundred and become a true artist. Working under the name “Manji” at this time, Hokusai incorporated a stylized image of Mt. Fuji into his seal.
This three-volume set is a masterpiece of illustration, both through Hokusai’s inventive composition and unfaltering creativity. The carving for the first two volumes was a directed by Egawa Tomekichi, Hokusai’s preferred engraver. Nishimuraya Yohachi (Eijudo) originally published volumes one and two of One Hundred Views, however the Nagoya-based publisher Eirakuya Toshiro published volume three more than a decade later. Though the design for book three was likely complete in 1834, it was not published until 1849. At that time, Eirakuya acquired the original woodblocks from Nishimuraya to print complete sets of the series along with the final installment. The most likely explanation for this delay is the financial downturn that struck Edo during the Tenpo famine, as Eijudo faced bankruptcy in 1836. This particular set of One Hundred Views was published during the Meiji period by Tohekido.
About the artist
The Japanese artist Hokusai Katsushika was born in Honjo district of Edo as Tokitaro Kawamura. Adopted by the mirror maker Ise Nakajima, Hokusai was raised as an artisan, learning to engrave at an early age. As a teenager, he assumed the name Tetsuzo Nakajima and took his first steps towards the world of print. He worked as a delivery boy for a book rental shop for a time, then around age 14, tried his hand at carving woodblocks for prints at the apprentice to an engraver. Around 1779, he formally pursued his artistic education through the workshop of the preeminent ukiyo-e master of actor portraiture, Shunsho Katsukawa (1726-1792). Hokusai dedicated himself to the Katsukawa school until 1785, when he was dismissed due to a disagreement with Shunsho. From 1785 until early 1798, Hokusai under the name "Sori" as part of the Tawaraya workshop. Between 1785 and 1797 Hokusai established himself as a popular surimono (lavish, privately commissioned prints) designer, painter, and illustrator. As the turn of the century neared, Hokusai freed himself of all school associations and became an independent artist under the name "Hokusai" and "Tokitaro."The following decades were marked by personal struggles and profound professional success.
In 1814, the first volume of Hokusai Manga was published, where Hokusai captured the spectrum of daily life and Edo-period imagination with a spontaneous and sketch-like quality. Between 1817 and 1835, Hokusai’s personal life was unsettled. While his artistic career flourished and his students proliferated, his second wife died. Continually changing residences within Edo, he spent time in Nagoya, Osaka, and Kyoto as well. In the 1830s, Hokusai entered his most prolific period as a print artist. He achieved great fame through his meisho-e (famous place pictures), such as the acclaimed series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (c. 1831-1833), which includes the iconic Under the Wave Off Kanagawa. Hokusai incorporated daring composition and aspects of one-point perspective into his landscapes. He revolutionized the Japanese landscape print, capturing the familiar and the imagined alike with innovative techniques and contemporary resonance. Following a devastating fire in his home in 1839, Hokusai turned away from print design and focused on painting during the final decade of his life. Hokusai Katsushika died in 1849. It is said that on his deathbed, his words were a plea for just five more years to paint, "for then he could work as a truly great artist."
Though Hokusai died in 1849, his woodblock prints and other works inspired generations of artists worldwide long after his death. While works such as the "Great Wave" brought Hokusai ubiquity, his persistent spirit of exploration, innovation, and sensitivity to his world that built his revelatory legacy.