Hokusai Katsushika, A Poem by Abe no Nakamaro, 100 Poems Narrated by the Nurse


Artist: Katsushika Hokusai (1760 - 1849)
Title: A Poem by Abe no Nakamaro
Series: 100 Poems Narrated by the Nurse
Publisher: Nishimuraya Yohachi
Date: 1835-1845
Size: 36.8 x 25.5 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 poet in this print is Abe no Nakamaro. The translation of the poem is as follows:

'I look abroad over the wide stretched plain sky,
Is this the moon the same as the one that rose on Mount Misaka,
In the land of Kasuga?'

Hokusai Katsushika

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
SubjectSamurai & Male, Landscapes
Dimensions36.8 x 25.5 cm
Condition ReportResidual mark from glue on the top left of the print. Pinhole on the right of the print. Vertical fold in the centre.