British Museum announces Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave

Tuesday, May 16, 2017
British Museum announces Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) has long enjoyed a strong international reputation and is considered by many to be Japan’s greatest artist. In May of this year the British Museum will stage the first exhibition in the UK to focus on the later years of the life and art of Hokusai, featuring his iconic print ‘The Great Wave’ of c. 1831 and continuing to the sublime painted works produced right up to his death at the age of 90.

British Museum announces Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) has long enjoyed a strong international reputation and is considered by many to be Japan’s greatest artist. In May of this year the British Museum will stage the first exhibition in the UK to focus on the later years of the life and art of Hokusai, featuring his iconic print ‘The Great Wave’ of c. 1831 and continuing to the sublime painted works produced right up to his death at the age of 90. Supported by Mitsubishi Corporation, Hokusai: beyond the Great wave will provide new insight into the prodigiously productive last thirty years of Hokusai’s life and art from around 1820 to 1849.

The exhibition will adopt a new approach to explore Hokusai’s later career in thematic as well as chronological terms. The exhibition will shed light on Hokusai’s personal beliefs and his spiritual and artistic quest through major paintings, drawings, woodblock prints and illustrated books. Many have never been seen before in the UK and can only be displayed for a limited length of time. From iconic landscapes and wave pictures to deities and mythological beasts, from flora and fauna to beautiful women, from collaborations with other painters and writers to still lives – the works on show will be extraordinarily varied, with objects drawn from the British Museum’s superb collection and many loans from Japan, Europe and the United States.

There will be a rotation of about half the artworks midway through the exhibition run for conservation reasons. Due to their light sensitivity some works can only be displayed for a limited amount of time, to preserve the vivid colours. Each rotation will tell the same story, but there will be the opportunity to see a selection of different works in each half. The exhibition will feature around 110 works in each rotation. The exhibition will be temporary closed from 3-6 July 2017 for this rotation. Hokusai’s most iconic print, ‘The Great Wave’ will be featured, a fine, early impression acquired in 2008 by the British Museum with the assistance of the Art Fund.

Year-end accounts. Ink and colour on old Dutch paper, 1824–1826. National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden. On display 25 May – 2 July.

Umezawa Manor in Sagami Province from Thirty-six Views of Mt Fuji. Colour woodblock, 1831. On display 7 July – 13 August.

Snowy morning, Koishikawa from Thirty-six views of Mt Fuji. Colour woodblock, 1832. On display 7 July – 13 August.

Image on top: Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849), Under the Wave off Kanagawa (detail). Colour woodblock print, c. 1831. Acquired with the assistance of the Art Fund.

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Museo Jumex (a private art collection based in Mexico City, Mexico) / David Chipperfield. Image © Simon Menges

Museo Jumex (a private art collection based in Mexico City, Mexico) / David Chipperfield. Image © Simon Menges

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