The Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) is widely recognized for a single image—Great Wave Off the Coast of Kanagawa, an icon of global art—yet he produced thousands of works throughout his long life. Charles Lang Freer recognized the artist’s vast abilities before many other collectors, and he assembled the world’s largest collection of paintings, sketches, and drawings by Hokusai. In commemoration of the centennial of Freer’s death in 1919, and in celebration of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020, the Freer Gallery presents a yearlong exploration of the prolific career of Katsushika Hokusai.
Works large and small are on view, from six-panel folding screens and hanging scrolls to paintings and drawings. Also included are rare hanshita-e, drawings for woodblock prints that were adhered to the wood and frequently destroyed in the process of carving the block prior to printing. Among the many featured works are Hokusai’s manga, his often-humorous renderings of everyday life in Japan. Together, these works reveal an artistic genius who thought he might finally achieve true mastery in painting—if he lived to the age of 110.