Daily Art Moment: Katsushika Hokusai

A vertical rectangular portrait of two male figures shown from the waist up wearing 18th century fashions. The figure on the right is seen mostly from the side and seems to be in the act of turning to face the viewer. His hands are outstretched holding a coral bead necklace up to the other figure. He is light skinned with short brown cropped hair under a blue turban-like headdress that is skewed to the left. He is smiling with lips parted and teeth showing and has soft, youthful features. He wears an open neck, collarless white shirt with a reddish-pink coat and a blue shawl draped over his arms and shoulders. White full, gathered sleeves and shirt cuffs extend past his jacket at his wrists. The figure on the left faces the viewer wearing a white ruffled edged mob cap with a pink bow on top, a mustard yellow dress with a pink stomacher and lacing, with a white ruffle seen at the neckline. This figure is light skinned, has short dark hair, heavy brows and an upturned nose. His forehead and face are lined and his mouth is partially open showing he is missing a tooth. His neck is muscular and he has a goiter.

“Last summer I hiked to Ramona Falls in Mt. Hood National Forest for the first time—and immediately thought of this print. Water cascades down the rocks, forking into powerful branches before spilling out in a fine, ethereal spray. Below, pilgrims on their way to nearby shrines at Nikkō stand transfixed. At right, two figures climb the steep slope for a better look at nature’s brilliance. This is one of Katsushika Hokusai’s most extraordinary print designs. It comes from an ingenious series issued in 1833–34 of famous waterfalls throughout Japan. It was made at a time when travel was becoming increasingly accessible and landscape—especially ‘famous places’ (meisho)—were a popular subject in woodblock prints. Hokusai’s waterfall prints followed the success of his celebrated #ThirtysixViewsofMountFuji, published two years before. Hokusai was in his seventies at the time.”

—Jeannie Kenmotsu, Japan Foundation Associate Curator of Japanese Art & Interim Head of Asian Art

Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, 1760–1849). Falling Mist Waterfall at Mount Kurokami in Shimotsuke Province, from the series A Tour of Waterfalls in Various Provinces, 1832/1833. Color woodblock print on paper. The Mary Andrews Ladd Collection, 32.441

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