Hokusai's The Great Wave to be exhibited in London
The British Museum has announced a new show that will examine the later life and works of iconic Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai. Most famous for his painting the Great Wave, which was produced when he was at least 70 years old, the artist created hundreds of images during his lifetime.
Hokusai, who lived between 1760 and 1849, held the belief that his art would get better the older he became, explained Tim Clark, the head of the Japanese section at the British Museum, to the Guardian. This exhibition shows that this was indeed the case, as well as the acceleration and urgency in his later works, continued Mr Clark.
The museum’s exhibition will be the first time that many of Hokusai’s works, which include woodblock prints, paintings and drawings, will be displayed in the UK. A number of the works can only be on show for a limited amount of time as they are sensitive to light and extended exposure could lead to damage.
In total, the exhibition will be open for three months. However, it will be closing halfway through for a few days in order to rotate around half of the pieces. This means that those attending the show may wish to do so twice in order to see more of Hokusai’s work.
It is thought that around 110 pieces will be on display at any one time, giving visitors plenty to explore and a lot of insight into the artist’s life. The exhibition will include one of the Great Wave prints, which the museum acquired in 2008. According to Mr Clark, the print has not been on display since 2011 so is sure to be a draw.
Hokusai’s woodblock of the Great Wave was used to make between 5,000 and 8,000 prints. Unfortunately, just a few hundred exist, of which, the museum’s is considered to be one of the best. While the image is called the Great Wave, the real focus of the image is Mount Fuji, as it comes from the artist’s series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji.
It has become one of the most popular of Hokusai’s works due to the energy and power depicted in the wave. It also served to inspire Debussy’s orchestral work Le Mer and has become recognised worldwide.
However, there is a lot more to Hokusai’s work than this image, which the museum is hoping to show with this new exhibition. Including his later, rarely-seen works should help to reveal more about the artist and allow people to appreciate his talent on a broader scale.
To this end, a number of works have been lent to the museum from other institutions, including pieces from the National Museum of Leiden and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Each of the pieces has an interesting history and many of them are still influencing Japanese art today.
The exhibition will be open from May 25th to August 13th, with the half point closure taking place between July 3rd and 6th.