Japan • 1760−1849
Katsushika Hokusai (October 21, 1760, Edo (now Tokyo) - May 10, 1849, ibid.) - the most common pseudonym of one of the most famous Japanese artists of the direction ukiyo-e. The master of woodcuts, the author of the cycles "36 species of Fuji", "100 species of Fuji", "100 stories about ghosts" and others. He played a significant role in the popularization of engravings in the genre of suri- no - a kind of greeting cards that were presented to each other by representatives of the Japanese nobility on various occasions. Having lived for almost 90 years, he created his best work upon reaching the 70-year mark.

Features of the artist Katsushiki Hokusai: being a famous author of traditional Japanese ukiyo-e engraving, paradoxically, Hokusai was not a full-time traditionalist artist. He brought to the classical foundations of Japanese prints the trends of Western art, such as the use of a linear perspective, the depiction of scenes from the life of the lower classes, realism, and others. Hokusai's etchings are distinguished by a philosophical view of the world in general and close attention to detail in particular.

Famous prints of Katsushiki Hokusai: "Big Wave in Kanagawa", "South wind. Clear Day (Red Fuji) ", "The Phantom of Oibe", "In the bathroom", "View of Edo from Rakan-ji Temple in Honjo", "Waterfall in the province of Mino".

The real name of Katsushiki Hokusai is unknown: the artist changed his pseudonym almost from the beginning of each new work cycle. It is only known that at birth he was named by the name Tokitaro, but it was not it that glorified the masters of Japanese woodcuts for the whole world.

What's in a name?

The information about Tokitaro’s childhood varies. According to one of the versions, he was the son of the master of mirror affairs, Nakajima Ise. But other researchers of the life and work of Hokusai believe that the boy was given up for foster care to a foster family at the age of 4–5 years, because he was born in such a poor peasant family that the parents were unable to feed all the children. The firstborn in Japan were traditionally left to grow at home, so it is believed that Tokitaro was not the oldest child.

One way or another, he got his first craft skills by helping his adoptive (or real - depending on which version to believe) father to make mirrors for the shogun (the post of ruler in the Japanese state). But he did not stay long in this field: at the age of ten Tetsuzo (the new name of the future artist) becomes a peddler in a bookshop. It is not known for certain why the boy left his first mentor. But if we take into account that in the future he will often show character and stubbornness, then we can imagine the approximate reasons for his departure.

After 4 years, Hokusay succeeds in enrolling as an apprentice to an engraver, with whom he masters the basics of the craft: learning to prepare boards, cut engravings according to the artist’s drawings, apply paint and so on. Thanks to the talent and exceptional diligence, the 19-year-old boy is taken to the studio of the artist Katsukawa Syunsho, known at that time. At this time, our hero takes his first artistic pseudonym Syunro. According to tradition, he was formed from parts of the teacher's names (the hieroglyph “ro” was inherited from his old pseudonym, Kyokuro).

By the time of the death of mentor Hokusiu turned 33 years old. He did not stay in the studio and continued to search for his own style. Having studied the art schools of kano (based on Chinese traditions) and Yamato-e (revered as truly Japanese), the future master is interested in European painting. Thanks to the rafting of all the available knowledge, Hokusay managed to develop a unique style that brought him popularity and orders.

Obsessed with painting

In the 90s of the 18th century, Hokusai works a lot and fruitfully, using so many pseudonyms that they were not confused by a true fan. In the name given at birth - Tokitaru - he signed book illustrations. Other works were published under the pseudonym Tatsumasa. Engravings, printed in large editions, were authored by Kako or Sorobaka.

In 1796, the master for the first time applies his main pseudonym, which will become his name for centuries to come. And at the turn of the century, he will add a small remark to it, and it will be called Gakedzin Hokusai - Hokusai, “obsessed with painting”. What was his obsession with? First, he worked at an incredible speed. His hand was firm, and the artist did not alter his drawings.

Secondly, having reached the peak of his mastery, Hokusai releases series after series, stamping new engravings like a flawless printing mechanism. One after another, there are cycles "36 Fuji species", "Travels through the provinces waterfalls", "100 Fuji species", which brought him incredible fame and survived so many re-releases that the original boards, carved by the master himself, lost their original appearance. Prints from them are stored in the best museum collections and private collections around the world.

There is no limit to perfection

Without a doubt, Hokusay was able to achieve such success thanks to exceptional perfectionism, which did not allow him to rest on his laurels and forced him to always be in search of perfect lines and compositional solutions.

His words are known: “Since the age of six, I have been passionately fond of copying the shape of things, and since I turned 50, I have published many drawings. But nothing, from what I painted before my seventieth, is not worth attention. At the age of 73 I partially grasped the structure of animals, birds, insects and fish, the life of plants and herbs. So at 86 I will make further progress, and at 90 I will even penetrate the secret meaning of things. At 100 years old, I may indeed succeed in reaching the level of the divine realms. When I turn 110, every point of mine, every line will live on its own. ”.

But life has confused the cards, and this plan Hokusay failed to complete until the end. In 1839, the fire destroyed the artist's studio and most of his works. At the same time, his popularity began to decline, and in Japan, the new stars of woodcuts began to rise, displacing the elderly master from his pedestal - Utagawa Hiroshige, eg.

But Hokusai did not leave his aspirations and continued to work until his death, which overtook him at a very respectable age. On his deathbed, a nearly 90-year-old old man regretted only that the heavens had not thrown him at least another ten years: “Or at least five more ... Then I could become a real artist”.

The author: Natalia Azarenko
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