A GREAT WAVE OF HOKUSAI
by Roger Catlin/Smithsonian.com
Katsushika Hokusai was in his 70s by the time he created his best-known image, the majestic The Great Wave off Kanagawa. Often known simply as The Great Wave, the popular print not only embodied Japanese art, but influenced a generation of artists in Europe, from Van Gogh to Monet.
Yet it was one of an estimated 30,000 images from Hokusai, who was so frenzied an artist that at one point he signed his work “Gakyō Rōji,” which translates to “the old man mad about painting.” That’s the title, too, of a new exhibition now on view at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art.
“Hokusai: Mad About Painting” brings forth from the museum’s storage vaults 120 works of art, from six-panel folding screens to rare preparatory drawings for woodblock prints. Because of their sensitivity to light, none have been on view since a hugely popular Hokusai exhibition that took place in 2006; and some so rarely seen, they were not even included in that show.