Hokusai was a leading master of the ukiyo-e period, and one of the best landscape artists of his time. His bold and original landscapes are a testament to his artistic genius and creativity. He was a prolific artist, creating more than 30,000 prints during his lifetime, and using 31 different artist names during his long career. He continued to work until his death at nearly ninety years of age.
Born in Edo (present-day Tokyo) in 1760, Hokusai first apprenticed as a wood engraver. Then, at the age of eighteen, he became a student of Shunsho, a well-known ukiyo-e master. Hokusai's early prints were of actors, sumo wrestlers, beauties, and surimono (privately commissioned prints). He also studied with Yusen, a painting master of the Kano School, and studied Chinese painting and Western techniques on his own.
Hokusai earned his greatest acclaim with his masterwork series, The Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji, a total of forty-six prints published in the early 1830s. These landscapes represent a synthesis of all that Hokusai had learned from his studies of both Eastern and Western art, combining masterful compositions and excellent draftsmanship with the greatest skill in printing techniques. Hokusai's Fuji series also established landscape as an important subject in Japanese prints, which had long been dominated by portraits of beauties and actors. The Great Wave from this series is one of the best-known Japanese woodblocks of all time, and it had a major impact on Western artists.
Hokusai's other series include One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji, Unusual Views of Famous Bridges in the Provinces, A Journey to the Waterfalls of all the Provinces, fifteen Manga or sketchbooks, and many kacho-e (bird and flower prints).