NGV: Hokusai Exhibition



Last weekend I  visited the glorious (but cold) city of Melbourne. During her trip she stopped by the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) to check out the Katsushika Hokusai Exhibition.

“Katsushika Hokusai is regarded as one of the most influential and creative minds in the history of Japanese art.

His unique social observations, innovative approach to design and mastery of the brush made him famous in Edo – period Japan and globally recognised within a decade of his death.” – NGV


36 Views of Mount Fuji 

Throughout Japanese history, Mount Fuji has inspired many artists, including the famous Hokusai. The collection was painted during 1830-4 (Hokusai would of been in his late 70’s) and comprises of (you guessed it) 36 different views of Mount Fuji, including what is referred to as Hokusai’s most famous artwork ‘The Great Wave’ (which is actually pretty small! – not the HUGE artwork I was envisioning).

What I loved is that Mount Fuji is not the ‘star’ of each piece, in most of the artworks Fuji is actually in the background and is illustrated by a simple outline. I was speaking to a gallery guide who told me that Hokusai purposely did this so he could capture the people and places of Japan in their natural form.

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Not many people know this, but in his early years as an artist Hokusai drew many (over 800) illustrations for Japanese manga (comic books).  Manga in the Edo period was VERY different to the manga that many of us know and love. Illustrations were simple and used to convey some sort of instruction or a very light humours story. Hokusai’s first illustrations were published in 1814 in the book “Education of Beginners, through the spirit of things”.

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Ghost Stories  

This was probably my favourite part of the exhibition. Many of Hokusai’s works are simplistic and have little colour,  in contrast the illustrations in “Ghost Stories” are full of detail and include strong bold colours.

‘Ghost Stories’ was a series of prints created by Hokusai in the late 1800’s, the series was based of a game called ‘Hyaku Monogatari’ (100 ghost tales). Players “were told among an assembled company at night and after each story another wick of the oil-lamp was extinguished, making the room progressively darker and darker. After the final wick was snuffed out, it was anticipated that ghosts would come out in the pitch black” (British Museum).

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Tattoo Inspo 

On a totally unrelated note, Hokusai prints would look A-MAZ-ING as a tattoo (I am VERY tempted to get one!). If you don’t believe me then check out the amazing illustrations below.


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