Xilographer or woodcutter (1760 - 1849)
Painter and xylograph, Katsushika Sori in art "Hokusai" (Edo 1760 - Edo 1849) is considered one of the greatest Japanese artists of all time. The artist chose the name "Hokusai" to sign his works since 1794. Hokusai literally means "study of the North Star", a symbol of good luck and best wishes for a brilliant career.
Hokusai's training began at the age of fourteen, when he became the apprentice of Katsukawa Shunsho, a master in the art of the "Ukiyo-e" genre (literally "painting of a floating world").
The Ukiyo-e style was widespread in the environments of the Japanese bourgeoisie of the time (19th century) who bought these prints that were made on wood to decorate their homes.
This style distinguished for the absence of depth, the well-defined contours of the figures and the chromatic combinations, but what made it truly unique were the themes and subjects represented. These works did not tend to sweeten reality but told everyday scenes, whose protagonists were animals, birds and landscapes but also actors, courtesans, wrestlers, considered members of the lower social classes.
Hokusai remained in the master's workshop for a good nineteen years, until 1795. When he left he joined the Tawaraya School, to further enrich his technical background. In this period he made his bijin-ga series, images of beautiful and elegant women, often portrayed in sensual poses.
At the age of thirty-eight, in 1798, Hokusai set up his own business, opening his own shop. He began to create personal works, black and white images for some books, often with a dramatic theme or with moralizing intent. One of his most famous works of this period is the series of fifteen volumes that make up the Hokusai Manga, one of his most famous series, in which scenes of everyday life alternate with fantastic scenes.
Just the Hokusai Manga (literally "sketches of Hokusai") are the basis of the language of comics, in which a series of images in series give the idea of the passing of time and history. Not surprisingly, even today for Westerners Japanese comics are known as "manga".
Hokusai reached fame in 1920 but his masterpiece arrived in 1831, when the artist was already seventy-one years old. This is the Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji, which includes the work The Great Wave by Kanagawa, considered one of the masterpieces of Oriental art. The way in which Hokusai managed to render the frightening energy of the sea with sharp and powerful colors is striking, capturing the dynamism of the waves, as opposed to the stability of Mount Fuji, which stands out imperturbably in the background.
Hokusai worked until his death which, to his great regret, surprised him at the "tender" age of eighty-nine. The artist in fact seems to have expressed the desire to live up to thirty years, an age necessary to achieve artistic perfection. He was convinced that art improved with age and that none of his works made before the age of seventy had value.