Katsushika Hokusai, Translated by Dr Ryoko Matsuba
ekphrasis, David Zwirner Books, 2023
Mad about Painting collects beautiful new translations of Hokusai’s painting tutorials and related essays written by the artist and his peers—a selection made available in English for the first time.
Best known for his iconic print Under the Wave off Kanagawa, also known as the Great Wave, Katsushika Hokusai was a revolutionary printmaker. His mastery of ukiyo-e in the nineteenth century has inspired generations of artists since, and his works helped introduce the world to the delicate beauty and power of the Japanese woodblock technique. In addition to his remarkable artistic output, Hokusai was also a dedicated teacher who sought to pass down his unique understanding of color and painting to practicing artists through immensely detailed written tutorials and manuals, many of which are excerpted here, in English, for the first time.
Connecting Hokusai’s prints from the Edo period to contemporary Japanese art, the scholar Ryoko Matsuba’s introduction foregrounds Hokusai’s contributions to Japanese creative expression from the 1800s to today. Also included in this book: Vincent van Gogh’s letter about Hokusai’s Great Wave and the contemporary artist Ikeda Manabu’s concise observations about Hokusai’s lasting influence. This volume offers invaluable insight into the psyche of a true master, and a rare personal account of an artist’s life during a fascinating period in Japan’s history.