The Japanese artist Hokusai Katsushika was born in Edo as Tamekazu Nakajima. Adopted by the mirror maker Ise Nakajima, Hokusai was raised as an artisan, learning to engrave at an early age. By age 14, apprenticed with a woodcarver, by 18 he began to study ukiyo-e with Shunsho. Hokusai dedicated himself to the Katsukawa school until 1785, when he was dismissed due to a disagreement with Shunsho. Between 1785 and 1797 Hokusai produced many prints, including surimono (lavish, privately commissioned prints), brush paintings and book illustrations under several different go (artist names). In 1797, Hokusai freed himself of all school associations and became an independent artist under the name Hokusai, though he continued to use a wide array of go. He released the first of his Hokusai Manga volumes in 1814, where he captured the spectrum of daily life with a spontaneous and sketch-like quality.
Hokusai achieved great fame through his meisho-e (famous place pictures), such as the acclaimed series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (c. 1830), which includes the iconic Great Wave Off Kanagawa. Hokusai’s woodblock prints incorporated daring composition and aspects of one-point perspective into his landscapes. He revolutionized the Japanese landscape, capturing familiar locations with innovative techniques. In the 1820s, Prussian blue entered Japan through Dutch traders at Nagasaki. Hokusai was quick to explore this new pigment. This rich, opaque shade can be seen in his later woodblock prints, lending the compositions a greater sense of depth than traditional colorants.
Between 1817 and 1835, Hokusai’s personal life was unsettled. While his artistic career flourished and his students proliferated, two of Hokusai’s marriages ended. Continually changing residences, he moved between Edo, Nagoya, Osaka and Kyoto. Though Hokusai passed away on May 10th, 1849, his work inspired generations of artists worldwide long after his death.