This week I discovered the impressive Japanese artist Hokusai in the British Museum. His specific technique and way of looking at things before drawing them are disclosed in The Great Picture Book of Everything exhibition, a specific type of encyclopedia including 103 drawings produced during the 1820s to 40s.
This exhibition shows the entirety of Hokusai’s talent. He is well known for his landscape prints and paintings. Hokusai was also an illustrator of picture books. He had been commissioned to illustrate around 270 books with scenes of daily life, warrior tales, anthologies of Chinese poetry and art manuals. The large number of subjects he had covered during his lifework is commendable. Ranging from animals to deity – every subject required him to learn a new technique. What struck me the most was the fineness of his lines and the infinite details in his work. He was very meticulous in his representation, which can be seen and particularly in his work about deities and traditional tales. These artworks relate to a whole culture and their cosmology and show how they explained world creation.
I discovered a very interesting artistic creation method: woodblock print. All of Hokusai’s prints are made with this specific technique. The final-stage drawing is pasted onto a particular block of wood, then a ‘block cutter’ has cut along the artist’s lines. The resulting outline block is inked and can be used to print the drawing on a piece of paper. The exhibition displays the tools used and explains the creation process in a clear video. There are other secrets disclosed in this exhibition about the Great Wave and I hope you will be able to discover Hokusai’s hidden secrets!
This original exhibition is an opportunity to discover the hidden truth of the Great Wave. It will run until 30 January 2022 at the British Museum, London. Learn more about it and get your tickets at https://www.britishmuseum.org/exhibitions/hokusai-great-picture-book-everything.
Photo image: ‘Cats and hibiscus’ A standoff between two cats with hibiscus (fuyo) behind.
Reviewed by Alix Berthelot–Moritz- Alix is a volunteer writer for Abundant Art. Originally from Normandy, France, she follows her passion for journalism and art by studying at the European Political and Social Sciences of UCL, London. As an international student living in London, she is determined to fully experience and discover the entirety of the city’s vibrant arts scene and share the beauty of it through her writing.