"The Great Picture Book" by Katsushika Hokusai - showing at The British Museum

Discover one of Japan's most celebrated artists, Katsushika Hokusai at The British Museum. He is best known for his iconic print, Under the Wave off Kanagawa, popularly called The Great Wave.

The British Museum is displaying 103 acquired drawings by Katsushika Hokusai from his illustrated encyclopaedia called The Great Picture Book. Based off letters he wrote, they believe it may have been produced somewhere between the 1820s-1840s for a book that was never published. During this period all publications were produced by wood block, meaning the original drawing was pasted onto wood and cut using various tools thereby disposing of the original drawing. This is a rare and unlikely survival where you can get an idea of Hokusai’s own hand.

This fascinating exhibition showcases the entire set as though you were seeing a complete book on display which is very unusual in a museum. The drawings cover three different topics; Buddhist India, Ancient China and the Natural World, each one hand drawn using ink onto paper. The book also reveals a version of 19th-century Japan, much more intrigued by the wider world than perviously thought.

In addition to the original brush drawings, the exhibition showcases two original versions of Hokusai's masterpiece The Great Wave alongside a short video and information that give further insight into his working practices. It demonstrates the intricate process by which his woodblock prints were created.

As you leave the exhibition, it guides you to the upper level which showcases the history of Japan with various paintings, sculptures and more. 

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