Ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai:biography, facts, and artworks

(Last Updated On: 07/11/2018)

Katsushika Hokusai who created the famous great wave painting

Katsushika Hokusai self portrait

Katsushika Hokusai self portrait

Katsushika Hokusai must be the most famous Japanese woodblock printing (ukiyo-e) artist around the world.

How to pronounce “Katsushika Hokusai”


His art works of images including The Great Off Kanagawa (The Great Wave) and other prints of “Thirty-Six Views of Mount. Fuji” influenced Western artists Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas and Henri Rivière.  


21. The Great Wave off Kanagawa




His printmaking works still have inspired the artists and the creators. In 1960, celebrating his 200th birth anniversary, he was honored as the cultural master in the world.(learn about Japanese painting by the early modern)




Short biography and the career of Katsushika Hokusai



Early life and Before Eshi(a painter)

In 1760, Katsushika Hokusai was born in Honjo, Edo. The downtown area Honjo was called “Katsushika” in Edo Period and it is said that he named himself it as the painting name in later years.


He was interested in drawing a picture when he was six . His real name was Kawamura Tetsuzo (川村鉄蔵. In later, Nakajima Tetsuzo 中島鉄蔵). After about eight years, he worked as Hori-shi(carver for relief printing), and it made him desire to draw by himself.




Katsukawa School


Hokusai became a pupil of Katsukawa Shunsho (勝川春章)and trained as Katsukawa School in 1778. He received his pen name Katsukawa Shunro (勝川春朗)and entered the stage of ukiyo-e(The history, famous artists, and process of ukiyo-e.)


Kabuki actor Nakamura Nakazo as Kagekiyo (at the period of Katsukawa Shunro)



Until the age of 35, he drew, as the artist of Katsukawa School, the pictures of kabuki actor, children, sumo wrestler, and famous sightseeing place.


At that period, he also learned from Kano Scool, Tosa School, Chinese paintings, and Western paintings in secret.





Rinpa School


He withdrew from Katsukawa School in 1794 and used painting name “Tawaraya Souri”(俵屋宗理). It was the name of “Rimpa”(琳派) but he was never to be obsessed by the way of the school. He established his own Souri style. It was the pictures of a beautiful woman with an oval-faced, small eyes and a mouth, and a slender shape.




Hokusai gave the name of Sori to his disciple and became to name himself as “Hokusai Tokimasa“(北斎辰政) in 1798. This was the first time when he used “Hokusai”.


He was independent of Rimpa school and declared that he wouldn’t belong to any schools as an individual artist. Around this period, he made the landscape printings with Western style, the illustrations of books, and many original artworks(Nikuhitsu-ga, 肉筆画).


“Hokusai Sketches” and “The Great Wave”


The pen name of “Katsushika Hokusai” was only used from 1805 to 1810.  After changing Katsushika Hokusai to “Taito”(戴斗), he began to work on Hokusai Sketches(Hokusai Manga, 北斎漫画).

Hokusai Sketches were one of the triggers for Japonism. When Japanese exported the pottery, they used the papers of Hokusai sketches for packaging. Because ukiyo-e was a flyer in Edo Period.


Bathing people from Hokusai Sketches



When he was sixty, his painting name was changed to “Iitsu”(為一). And after three years, Hokusai began to put the work titled as Thirty-Six views of Mt. Fuji“(Fugaku Sanjurokkei, 富嶽三十六景).  

It contains the most famous Japanese art paintings, ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa‘(Kanagawa Oki Namiura, 神奈川沖浪裏), ‘Fine Wind, Clear morning ‘(Red Fuji, Gaifu Kaisei, 凱風快晴). Gogh wrote very highly of the woodcut wave for Teo. The title of the series means thirty six paintings of Mount Fuji. But it has actually more than thirty-six images. 


“Gakyo rojin manji”(画狂老人卍)


The Lantern Ghost, Iwa

Before the publishing of “Thirty-Six views of Mt. Fuji”, there was no area of landscape in ukiyo-e and Katsushika Hokusai made it popular at first as an artist.


But he almost washed his hand of woodblock printings in 1834 after completed many artworks including “A Tour of Japanese Waterfalls (Shokoku Takimeguri,諸国滝廻り)”, “One Thousand Images of the Sea/Oceans of Wisdom (Chieno Umi,千絵の海)” and “One Hundred views of Mt. Fuji”(Fugaku Hyakkei, 富嶽百景). At that time, he was 75 years old  and his painting name was “Gakyo rojin manji”(画狂老人卍). It is a name that seems to be his obsession to reach the summit of the art.


“Gakyo” represented “obsessed and crazy with painting”, “rojin” was an old man, and “manji” had the meaning of his hope for living to be a hundred.


Since then Hokusai focused the artworks on the original paintings. The themes were animals and plants, religion, and history or stories of Japan and China. The self-portrait of him at the top of this page was about 80 years old.


The ceilling picture”Dragon” and “Raging billows angry waves” for the festival float in Obuse, Nagano prefecture, was one of the his masterpieces when he was 85 and 86. “Raging billows angry waves” evokes “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”.



Dragon flying over Mount Fuji

Though he was so eager to draw more pictures and to improve his technique of art, he died at 90 in 1849.


Hokusai drew last painting “Dragon flying over Mount Fuji” three manths before his death.


It seems that the dragon represents himself.






Katsushika Hokusai’s death haiku

As a soul

I’ll stroll on the summer field

For a pasttime


What”s “haiku? The format and famous poets

Sponsored Links

Katsushika Hokusai’s paintings

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Hokusai’s ukiyo-e reprints for sale



Framed Art Print, The Great Wave off the Coast of Kanagawa, 1831' by Katsushika Hokusai: Outer Size 37 x 25

Framed Art Print, The Great Wave off the Coast of Kanagawa, 1831′ by Katsushika Hokusai: Outer Size 37 x 25





Dragon 28x28 Large Black Wood Framed Print Art by Katsushika Hokusai

Dragon 28×28 Large Black Wood Framed Print Art by Katsushika Hokusai





ARTCANVAS The Amida Falls in the Far Reaches of the Kisokaido Road 1832 Canvas Art Print by Katsushika Hokusai-26 x 18" (0.75" Deep)

ARTCANVAS The Amida Falls in the Far Reaches of the Kisokaido Road 1832 Canvas Art Print by Katsushika Hokusai-26 x 18″ (0.75″ Deep)






Artworks gallerly






The stories of anecdote and interesting facts about Katsushika Hokusai


  • Hokusai changed his house 93 times in his life. He moved too much to be identified his adress by the public office. 
  • He also often changed his penname. He had 30 painting names through the life.
  • His daughter, Ei (栄), inherited the talents of Hokusai and bacame ukiyo-e artist. The penname was Katsushika Ōi (葛飾応為). She learned the technique of the Western shadow method. His father praised her as ‘I am not much for her with portraying beautiful women. For the field, she draws really skillfully and adequately.


Yoshiwara Night Scene



The signatures(painting name)

  • 春朗(Shunro):1779-1793?
  • 群馬亭(Gunmba-tei):1785-1793?
  • 百琳宗理(Hyakurin-souri):1795-1797
  • 宗理(Souri):1795-1798
  • 北斎宗理(Hokusai-souri):1797-1798
  • 北斎(Hokusai):1797-1819
  • 可候(Kako):1798-1811
  • 辰政(Tokimasa):1799-1810
  • 画狂人(Gakyo-zin):1800-1808
  • 九々蜃(Kukushin):1805
  • 画狂老人(Gakyo-rojin)1805-1806, 1834-1849
  • 錦袋舎(Kintaisha):1805-1809
  • 雷震(Raishin):1811-1815
  • 戴斗(Taito):1811-1820
  • 為一(Iitsu):1820-1834
  • 前北斎為一(Zen-hokusai-iitsu):1821-1833
  • 不染居為一(Fusenkyo-iitsu):1822
  • 月痴老人(Getchi-rojin):1828
  • 卍(Manji):1834-1849
  • 土持仁三郎(Tuchimochi Nizaburo):1834
  • 三浦屋八右衛門(Miuraya Hachiemon):1834-1846



Sponsored Links
Homeaway Asia




The museums of Katsushika Hokusai’s art in Japan





Buy Now
See larger image

Additional Images:Img - 0714844578
Img - 0714844578

Hokusai (Paperback)

The life and work of one of the greatest Japanese artists.

New From: $99.00 USD In Stock
buy now

Buy Now
See larger image

Additional Images:Img - 0810993406

Hokusai’s Mount Fuji: The Complete Views in Color (Hardcover)

This complete collection of Hokusai’s famous views of Mount Fuji is the only high-quality reproduction of these engravings, long considered the Japanese master’s greatest works. Taken from the best engravings available and shown in splendid color, this authoritative volume is the first of its kind since 1830. Hokusai’s influence extended far beyond Japan, even to French Impressionists including Degas, Monet, and Toulouse-Lautrec. Each illustration is accopmanied by detailed notes placing the work in its cultural and historical context and exploring the symbolic themes running through Hokusai’s landscapes.

New From: $31.73 USD In Stock
buy now

Hokusai: One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji (Paperback)

One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji by the renowned Japanese artist Hokusai is a work of unending visual delight. Considered Hokusai’s masterpiece, this series of images captures the simple, elegant shape of Mount Fuji from every angle and in every context. With no more than delicate, engraved outlines and flat washes of gray, Hokusai displays his consummate virtuosity as a draftsman, printmaker, and compositional innovator. Seen behind hanging strips of cloth outside a dyer’s shop, or through the close stems of swaying bamboo, Mt. Fuji takes on a variety of guises–at times majestic, ominous, and even occasionally comic–to reflect its multiform meaning within Japanese culture.

New From: $44.95 USD In Stock
buy now

You might be interested in this too