50 Books: Hokusai!!!!!!!!!!

I wanted today’s book to have a nice tie-in with today’s post, but, it doesn’t.  But it has something much, much better:  HOKUSAI!

The book I looked over a thousand times when I was little is

Masterworks of Ukiyo-E: Hokusai Sketches and Paintings

If you think that Japanese art is stiff, formal and impenetrable to Western eyes, then your cure is HOKUSAI!  You probably know his famous “Great Wave off Kanagawa”

This is a woodblock print.  A WOODBLOCK PRINT.  Have you ever tried to do a print?  Okay.

But what I really remember from this book is his little portraits.  Tender, grotesque, hilarious, occasionally obscene, and all done with an economy of line that — I don’t even know how to say it.  It will slay you.

It’s my constant lament that we never manage to bring my kids to art museums.  I do try to copy my parents’ example and pick up large, colorful art books at book sales, though, and leave them lying around for the kids to leaf through.  (This has its perils, of course; just because it’s art doesn’t mean it’s okay for kids to see certain things!  So you have to use your common sense.)

If you kid is, like mine, into manga (which is also a constant lament of mine, but I try to keep it to myself), maybe you could introduce him to Hokusai.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and link to another book which I haven’t actually read, but which I’m thinking of getting for my kid:

Hokusai, First Manga Master

Here’s the blurb:

More than a hundred years before Japanese comics swept the globe, the master engraver Hokusai was producing beautiful, surreal, and often downright wacky sketches and drawings, filled with many of the characters and themes found in modern manga. These out-of-context caricatures, which include studies of facial expressions, postures, and situations ranging from the mundane to the otherworldly, demonstrate both the artist’s style and his taste. In addition to the landscapes for which he is beloved, Hokusai’s mangas reveal his compassion for farmers, artisans, and peasants, as well as his keen eye for the absurd.

Hokusai!!!!!!!!!!!  It’s also fun to say.

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4 comments

  1. James A Michener also wrote an astonishingly good book about Japanese woodblock prints, “Ukiyo-E: The Floating World.” I’ve never forgotten about fugitive blue.

  2. Mine is into manga too, and I am not pleased. But it did lead to her not balking at going to a Japanese exhibit at Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, so I think you’re on the right track.

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