Born in the autumn of 1760, Hokusai was a Japanese artist, ukiyo-e painter and printmaker of the Edo period. As a child, he learned woodblock cutting and was apprenticed to a book-lending shop. At the age of 19, he studied at the school of Katsukawa Shunsho, a leading woodblock artisan of the time, who was known for his portraits of popular actors.
Hokusai studied the techniques of the Kano Yusen, Tsutsumi Torin, and the Sumiyoshi Naikie schools. He was also greatly intrigued by the Western art that entered Japan through Dutch trading.
Beginning in 1814, Hokusai published his Hokusai Manga sketchbooks. The popular books contained thousands of drawings of people, religious figures, and animals.
Hokusai’s “36 views of Mount Fuji” are his best-known prints and are among the most famous of the Japanese woodcuts. He was 69 when he began the project and was already known for his painting, book illustration and surimono (commissioned prints) designs. Hokusai worked on the series for almost ten years before its publication in 1830 and they are considered by many to be his best work. After the original publication, due to their popularity, ten more prints were added.
Hokusai was a prolific artist and in his lifetime produced more than 30,000 print designs. He is said to have been an eccentric man with a restless nature. He changed his artistic name more than thirty times in his career, and changed his residence 93 times. He lived a long and productive life, continuing to produce prints well into his eighties.
Katsushika Hokusai died on April 18, 1849 at the age of 89. His last words were “If heaven gives me ten more years, or an extension of even five years, I shall surely become a true artist.”
To view the complete series of 36 (plus 10 extra) Views of Mount Fuji, visit Wikipedia.