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Hokusai Photo

Hokusai, belonging to the Hedo period, was a Japanese artist. His date of birth is a cause of much ambiguity and no date has been confirmed. Yet many claim it to be October 30, 1760.

Hokusai spent many of his early years in the Katsushika district of Edo. His family was artisan and he was often nicknamed as Tokitarō. Many claimed that is father was active in the business of making mirrors.

It was at the age of six that Hokusai first met with the canvas. He is speculated to have caught the artistic germs from his father who at many times applied artistry in the design of his mirrors.

During his lifetime, Hokusai had changed his name many times(thirty to be exact). The practice of using multiple names is not an anomaly in the Japanese traditions. Yet, the quantity of names Hokusai had exceeded that in the norm.In fact, Hokusai switched so many different names in his life that the work he produced under those names could actually be considered as complete periods.

It was at the age of twelve that his father prompted him to get involved in a bookshop. The practice was common in the middle-class families of Japan. At fourteen he became a formal wood craver. He kept this job till he was 18 which is when he was hired by a studio. Over here he worked with famous artists and crafted many intricate woodwork.

The first time Hokusai changed his name to Shunrō. His first prints were ran under this specific name.

Hoksai was married twice. Tragically ,both his wives died pretty soon after their respective marriages to him. Not much is known about them. He had five children in total-three daughters and two sons.

It was when his second wife died that he fell into deep depression. Consequently, he ventured into a variety of art domains. He was then introduced to the European, French and Dutch styles. However he was soon expelled from the Katsukawa school on grounds of being schooled by a rival. The embarrassment that the incident brought to him is said to have taught him a lot.

In the years to come, Hokusai also altered the themes of his paintings. He drifted away from conventions and began to establish a style of his own. He drew landscapes and scenarios from daily life.

Hokusai also produced work in the genre of erotica. The category is called shunga. The audience for the art form is men and women from a variety of stratagems. Shungas are considered lucky charms against death and were known in the Japanese tradition to provide sexual guidance to the unmarried people of the community.

In 1939, Hokusai’s studio caught fire. Not only did his studio get burnt but also the work in it. Meanwhile, his career was no longer of the stature it had been earlier. Young blood was pouring in from all quarters and occupying the artistic scenarios at the expense of his popularity. Still, Hokusai did not lose heart and continued to paint. At the age of 87 he produced a painting that he titled Ducks in a Stream.

He was so driven that even on his deathbed he is reported to have said, “If only Heaven will give me just another ten years… Just another five more years, then I could become a real painter.”

Hokusai passed away on May 10, 1849. He was buried at the Seikyō-ji in Tokyo.

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