Hokusai: beyond the great wave

20170610_160353During my trip back to the UK I had time for a quick visit to London. Of all the exhibitions on at the moment, I could not resist getting tickets for the Hokusai at The British Museum. Yes, he is 18th/19th century but he is work is exquisite and although I am sure the Hodgkin at the National portrait Gallery was interesting, for me this is what I needed to see.

The exhibition was tight on timing, and it was very crowded and rather dark, so much so that it would have been impolite to stand and sketch for any length of time which was a shame. I was also not allowed to take any photographs. I made some notes as I went round in shockingly bad handwriting…..



The leaflet inside and some postcards:



The clouds in one of the many Mount Fuji paintings reminded me of Georgia O’Keeffe’s clouds paintings. A lot of the work was very linear and not tonal. I liked his unexpected touches, for example the white sea foam birds and turning in plover birds. He was inspired by his area, living with the view of Mount Fuji and the birds and flowers. This reminds me to look and paint the beautiful things I have here, in Andalucia. He was also inspired by poems, ghost tales. Some of his work seemed stylised, and then sudden it would be just bursting with life somehow, as below in the ‘Gamecock and Hen’ Gamecock and hen

source: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/may/28/hokusai-beyond-the-great-wave-review-british-museum

I am captivated by the expression on their faces. Sometimes you just don’t need to put too much into a painting; I just love the simplicity of this. The cock so proud and challenging and the hen look coquettishly at him, she would flutter her eyelids if she had any. This was one of his later paintings.

There is another Guardian review here also: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/may/22/hokusai-beyond-the-great-wave-review-british-museum

This is a quote from there:  ‘There is precious little evidence of a later flowering, “beyond” The Great Wave, in this increasingly baffling exhibition. Hokusai’s late painting of a dragon, done in the traditional way on a silk scroll in 1849, the year of his death, shows he could still ink a decent monster at 90. Yet it is not any more exciting, sensitive or profound than the much earlier dragon painting shown here that he’d created in about 1798. Late style? What late style?’

I disagree. I loved all of his work but the later ones seemed to have more life in them somehow; they seemed to say more to me. My stand out favourite that I would loved to have stolen and taken home with me was the dragon in the smoke above Fuji that this critic is referring to. This is not a good copy but it took my breath away standing in front of it.  I think maybe it is the scale of the dragon against the mountain and the beautiful, again simplicity, of the whiteness of the mountain. Also, I have had to leave a work I am in the middle of  which is a vulture of death coming out of some clouds so I saw this and thought, yes, this is what I am trying to do.  source: http://www.katsushikahokusai.org/search

“If heaven will afford me five more years of life, then I’ll manage to become a true artist.” Hokusai.



Author: Wendy Kate

Happily sharing my life in Spain with a tall bearded man from Dorset.

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