My favorite artist: Katsushika Hokusai


I’m not a museum guy or art guy, but made an exception yesterday and went to the Legion of Honor in San Francisco with my wife to see “Japanesque” which is running until January 9, 2011. I loved it! It is a huge collection on loan from various sources that show the creation and evolution of woodblock print carving and reprint production from Japan, and how this style (called ukiyo-e) influenced painters in France and the United States.

The main thing that pulled me to this exhibit was the chance to see my favorite painter, Katsushika Hokusai. He didn’t use many colors, but is credited with being one of the 1st to use “Prussian Blue,” which at the time was a rare pigment from Europe later popularized by Bob Ross, of course! A lot of his work was on display, as well as many of his sketchbooks, which was just incredible to see how he conceived my favorite painting, his famous “Cresting wave off the coast of Kanagawa” (see above). This is the iconic piece from this ukiyo-e period, and memorialized in his “Thirty Six Views of Mt. Fuji.” It was interesting to see how French painters adopted the Japanesque style, mainly in the “Thirty Six Views of the Eiffel Tower,” which is visually stirring but still no Hokusai — I’m biased.

I first got interested in Hokusai after reading the Dec 29th, 2004 issue of The Economist, which covered the tragic events of the 2004 Tsunami that ravaged Asia. The leader in that issue used Hokusai’s image above, the majestic cresting waves in the foreground, with his signature Mt. Fuji in the background, distant.