Hokusai’s Woodblocks

Fuji seen through the Mannen bridge at Fukagawa, Edo

More than 400 years after the creative boom of the Heian era, the capital moved to the east to current-day Tokyo, ushering in the Edo Era (A.D.1603–1868). Citizen life flourished more than ever during this peaceful time period, informing another wave of artistic innovation.

When traveling became a leisure activity during the Edo Era (A.D.1603–1868), that newfound ability informed the work of artists like Hokusai and Utagawa, who became quite popular thanks largely to their scenes of varied cities and landscapes. Katsushika Hokusai was a master of the ukiyo-e school of woodblock printmaking and painting. In his more than 70 years of creative output, Hokusai produced prints and paintings of subjects including samurai, Kabuki actors, and landscapes, most famously in his series 36 Views of Mt. Fuji, completed between 1826 and 1833.

Clockwise from top left: Hodogaya on the Tokaido; Kajikazawa in Kai Province; Goten-yama-hill, Shinagawa on the Tokaido; The Great Wave off Kanagawa

In this series, considered a crowning achievement of the Japanese landscape print genre, Mt. Fuji is seen through cherry blossoms and waves, towering over fishing villages and city streets, a figure at once eternal and changeable in light of the perspectives and circumstances from which it is viewed.

Clockwise from top left: The Fuji reflects in Lake Kawaguchi, seen from the Misaka pass in the Kai province; Nihonbashi bridge in Edo; Mount Fuji in Clear Weather; A Thunderstorm Below The Summit; Inume pass in the Kai province

Hokusai’s original run of 36 prints was so popular that he supplemented them with another 10, bringing the total number of images in the famous collection to 46. Click on any of the images above for a more detailed look at his extraordinary craftsmanship.

Hokusai’s work is integral to Naomi Iizuka’s play 36 Views on the Lantern stage May 26 through June 26, 2016. Visit our website for more information.