Katsushika Hokusai – Dragon and Wizard from Hokusai manga

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Hokusai, Katsushika


(A) Very Fine Condition





When a young Japanese boy who wanted to become an artist was trained, they would spend upwards of nine months learning to draw bamboo, for bamboo was believed to be such a subtle subject that if one could draw it well, one could draw anything. After months of trying to draw bamboo with conviction, the apprentice artist was then permitted to move on to a pine tree, which posed a different challenge, representing mass and grandeur in a simple form.  And then onward to plum blossoms, etc. The manga sketchbooks published by Hokusai between 1814 and 1878 are explorations on subjects, simple yet elegant drawings on everything around him, studies that would find their ways into so many of his pieces, as well as influence generations of artists after him.

This is what he wrote about himself in his autobiography. It is the quintessence of his art philosophy:

“From the age of five I have had a mania for sketching the forms of things. From about the age of fifty I produced a number of designs, yet of all I drew prior to the age of seventy there is truly nothing of great note. At the age of seventy-two I finally apprehended something of the true quality of birds, animals, insects, fish and of the vital nature of grasses and trees. Therefore, at eighty I shall have made some progress, at ninety I shall have penetrated even further the deeper meaning of things, at one hundred I shall have become truly marvelous, and at one hundred and ten, each dot, each line shall surely possess a life of its own. I only beg that gentlemen of sufficiently long life take care to note the truth of my words.”


The Woodblock Print

This print is two sheets from Hokusai’s manga #13, “Wake no Kiyomato”, circa 1849. This is a left and right panel, glued together into one composition measuring 8″ x 10″. The paper is in good condition (a very light paper was used) and with solid (but a bit light) inking with a faint red wash in parts. A clean back.

The composition seems to be a wizard/mage with his hands up and infront of him, holding a flag or spear, seeming to ward off an approaching dragon amidst the smoke.

About the Artist

Katsushika Hokusai was born in 1760 in the Katsushika district of Edo (Tokyo) with the given name of Tokitaro. He started an apprenticeship at a woodblock workshop at the age of 15. At the age of 18 he joined the painting and printmaking school of Katsukawa Shunsho and took the name Katsukawa Shunro. The early Hokusai art prints were actor ukiyo-e created under the influence of his teacher Shunsho.

Hokusai must be imagined as a person who was completely obsessed by producing ukiyo-e (Japanese prints). He usually got up early in the morning and worked until after sunset. The art name Gakyo-rojin, which he used from 1834-1849 means “old man mad with painting”.

Hokusai was one of the most prolific of all ukiyo-e artists. At the end of his life he had produced more than 30,000 print designs.


The Physical Properties of Hokusai’s Books, Ellis Tinios

Michener, James A. (1958). Hokusai Sketchbooks: Selections from the Manga. Rutland, Vermont & Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company.

The World of the Japanese Illustrated Book, Smithsonian Institute