Hokusai Katsushika, Monk Henjo, Poems Narrated by the Nurse

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Artist: Katsushika Hokusai (1760 - 1849)
Title: A Poem by Monk Henjo
Series: One Hundred Poems Narrated by the Nurse
Publisher: Eijudoh-Nishimuraya Yohachi
Published: circa 1835-1838
Size: 25 cm x 36.5 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print. 

 

This print is from the series of 'One Hundred Poems Narrated by the Nurse', which was published between 1835 and 1838: the last major production of woodblock prints by Hokusai. After that, the artist focused on Japanese traditional paintings until his death.
The aim of this series was to make authentic writings of 'Hyakunin-isshu' (a collection of Tanka poems from 7th-13th century) easy to understand. The prints create an intimate atmosphere, which is referenced in the title of this series, making it seem as if the poems are being relayed by a foster mother.

 

Hokusai created 100 designs in total, however, only 27 images were published due to the publisher's bankruptcy.

 

The scene depicts a gagaku performance on a raised stage in the Imperial Court. The ancient Japanese music of gagaku is one of the oldest musical ensemble traditions in the world. The music was restricted to the court; its appreciation and performance indicating a cultured upbringing to the courtiers themselves. Reaching its highest point of popularity in the late Heian period, the music would find itself in decline until its patronisation by the Tokugawa government in the Edo period.

 

The translation of the poem is as follows:


Stormy winds blow through the paths
Among the clouds and close their gates
To string along with the beautiful celestial maiden
On earth.

Hokusai Katsushika (1760 - 1849)


Hokusai Katsushika is considered to be one of the greatest artists within Japan as well as the entire art community worldwide. While prints of beautiful women (bijinga) and prints of actors (yakusha-e) were popular in the ukiyo-e during that time, Hokusai distinguished himself in a new field in ukiyo-e, landscapes. Born in Edo (today’s Tokyo), he initially trained as an engraver. At the age of 18 he became a student of Katsukawa Shunsho (1726-1792) producing kabuki actors prints.

Hokusai devoted almost all of his 90 years of life to drawing and painting. Never satisfied with one technique or mastering one style of drawing, he always sought to improve as an artist. In the mid-1810s, the first volume of ‘Hokusai’s Manga’ was published. This series of sketchbooks consists of 15 volumes in total, covering a wide variety of subjects and is often referred to as a series of instructional drawing manuals intended to serve as a kind of textbooks for those who wanted to become artists.

In the early 1820s, Hokusai started working on the series ‘Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji’, which was finally published in 1830. It is certainly his most famous body of work and is often considered his best. The series actually consists of 46 images, with designs such as ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’, ‘Fine Wind, Clear Weather’, and ‘Rain Storm Beneath the Summit’, known worldwide. His other famous series ‘A Tour of the Waterfalls of the Provinces’ also appeared around this time period. In the mid-1830s, his illustrated book ‘One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji’ was published. Filled with depictions of the mountain in often dynamic compositions, this book, alongside ‘Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji’, established Hokusai as the ‘Mt. Fuji artist’.

His last major print series, 'One Hundred Poems Narrated by the Nurse', was published between 1835 and 1838. After that, the artist focused on Japanese traditional paintings until his death.

Hokusai used over 50 names to sign his works and had achievements in various fields as an artist. His influences stretched across the globe to his western contemporaries in nineteenth-century Europe with Japonism, which started with a craze for collecting Japanese art, particularly ukiyo-e. He influenced the Impressionism movement, with themes echoing his work appearing in the work of Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, as well as the Art Nouveau style.

More Information
Print FormatOban (Horizontal)
ArtistHokusai Katsushika (1760 - 1849)
SubjectMale & Female, Landscapes
Size25 cm x 36.5 cm
Condition ReportVertical centrefold. Faint pencil marks on the back. Slight discolouration around the edges from the previous backing.
SeriesOne Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets as Explained by Nurse::Hokusai Katsushika
publisherNishimuraya Yohachi:1751-1860