Hokusai’s Illustrations for The Great Picture Book of Everything

Third Thursday lecture - Sainsbury Institute

Thursday 16 December, 2021
6:00pm GMT - 7:00pm GMT

Online lecture, via Zoom.
50 min lecture followed by Q&A.
Free and open to all, booking essential.
To check your time zone conversion if you are joining from outside the UK, click here.


Dr Alfred Haft (British Museum)

About the Talk

In 2020, the British Museum acquired a group of 102 block-ready drawings (hanshita-e) that Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) produced for an unpublished picture encyclopedia titled, The Great Picture Book of Everything (Banmotsu ehon daizen).  Precisely because the book went unpublished, Hokusai’s drawings escaped the block-cutter’s knife and survive for us to study and enjoy today.  The drawings represent a major rediscovery that adds to our understanding of Hokusai’s life and work in his later years, a time when he was living with his artist-daughter Ōi (about 1800–after 1857).  They may be examined from a variety of perspectives:  how, in terms to technique, they relate to other works by the artist and to each other; their narrative and subject content; and their intended function within an encyclopedia.

About the Speaker

Alfred Haft (PhD) is JTI Project Curator for Japanese Collections at the British Museum. His research focuses on Japanese prints and print culture. Publications include Aesthetic Strategies of the Floating World: Mitate, Yatsushi and Fūryū in Early Modern Japanese Popular Culture and  ‘Cultural Migration in Edo Japan: The Case of Hokusai and Obuse’ (forthcoming).

Image: A bolt of lightning strikes Virūḍhaka dead from Banmotsu ehon daizen zu 万物絵本大全図 (Illustrations for the Great Picture Book of Everything), 2020,3015.81, © The Trustees of the British Museum.


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The Third Thursday Lecture series is funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and Yakult UK.