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  HOME | Arts & Entertainment

Iconic Genius of Ancient Japanese Artist, His Students on Display in Tokyo

TOKYO – A collection of one of the most iconic artists of ancient Japan, Hokusai, will be on display in a Tokyo exhibition from Tuesday, pairing the works of a reluctant guru with that of his disciples.

Hokusai, a famed Edo-period (1603-1868) artist, did not like to coach his students in great detail. But he still trained many artists and ended up having around 200 students or students of his students.

Best known for “Under a Wave off Kanagawa,” a woodblock print that is the most reproduced Japanese art piece in the world, Hokusai (1760-1849) was trained as an ukiyo-e artist, a genre of Japanese woodblock prints and paintings that flourished between the 17th and 19th centuries.

The exhibition at the Sumida Hokusai Museum in Tokyo will depict his artworks along with the works of some of his students, comparing strokes, colors, and techniques that show the legacy left on the Japanese art by Hokusai.

Maho Yamagiwa, the curator of the exhibition, told EFE on Monday that Hokusai’s works show how he would come up with such pioneering compositions that could never have been thought of by others.

The exhibition, “Hokusai: The Teacher-Student Showdown,” includes dozens of work on four themes: human figures, animals, landscapes and various subjects.

Asked about the reason behind Hokusai’s reluctance to training his students, the curator said it was perhaps because the painter learned the art on his own, without anyone guiding him.

She said he sought his way through painting and hoped that his students would also learn in the same manner.

One of the works on the display is part of Hokusai’s landscape series “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji,” showcased along with a similar art piece from one of his best-known students Totoya Kokkei.

Hokusai’s influence can be seen in Kokkei’s piece with similarities in strokes and figures, although in different contexts.

For the curator, it was difficult to choose which of the disciples learned more from the master.

But she guesses that it may be Manjiro Hokuga because the artist painted with great strength and Hokusai’s daughter, Katsushika Oi for the sensitive expressions in her works.

Hokusai was only known in Japan until the country opened to the world in 1868, during the beginning of the Meiji era.

Admired by Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Vincent van Gogh, Hokusai’s art left its mark on the impressionist movement.

In Japan, his teachings also evolved because of his pupils, who, according to the curator, have built and highlighted Hokusai’s strengths with their own hands.

Yamagiwa added that Hokusai painted with vitality but his disciples went further and when a student paints a portrait of a woman it can be noted that it has evolved from the feelings of Hokusai’s paintings.


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