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Hokusai (1760 - 1849)

Roben Waterfall at Oyama in Sagami Province

Series: Waterfalls in Various Provinces
Medium: Woodblock Print
Date: c. 1832
Size (H x W): 14.63 x 9.88 (inches)
Publisher: Nishimuraya Yohachi
Seals: Kiwame
Signature: Saki no Hokusai Iitsu hitsu
Conditon: Very good color and impression, light horizontal fold, slightly trimmed seals on left edge.
Price on request


Roben Waterfall bursts from the cliffside, crashing into the pool below. In the spray of the falls, pilgrims purify themselves on the way to Oyama shrine. Hokusai’s series Views of Waterfalls in Various Provinces, captures the spirit of each waterfall in strong vertical composition, balancing the power of nature and the nature of man. The human figures are small beneath the cascades, connecting these marvels of nature with the human rituals that surround them. In this print, Hokusai makes ample use of Prussian blue to lend depth to the falls, while capturing pilgrims in various stages of bathing. Considered one of Hokusai’s monumental series, Waterfalls numbers only eight designs and it is thought to have taken over two years to complete.

Other impressions of this print can be found in numerous collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, British Museum, Honolulu Museum of Art, Tokyo National Museum, Edo Tokyo Museum, Library of Congress, and Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

About the artist

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, he served as an apprentice to a woodcarver, by age 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, capturing 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 (1826-1833), which includes the iconic Great Wave Off Kanagawa. Hokusai’s woodblock prints incorporated aspects of one-point perspective and daring composition into his landscapes. Hokusai 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 Hokusai’s 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. He passed away on May 10th, 1849. Even after his death, Hokusai’s artwork had a profound influence on Western art and the development of Japonisme.