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Updated on January 25, 2013

Hokusai (1760-1849) was a Japanese Ukiyo-e painter and designer of color woodcut prints, who influenced the French impressionist painters, especially Paul Gauguin. Hokusai, whose adopted surname was Katsushika, was born in Edo (Tokyo) in 1760. At the age of 5, he was adopted by a mirror maker.

He learned drawing and design in his stepfather's shop and at 19 became a disciple of the Ukiyo-e painter Shunsho Katsukawa (1726-1792). He left Shunsho in 1758 and made a living illustrating books and designing surimono- small prints to announce births, marriages, and other family events.

Hokusai did not reach his peak until his fifties when he published the first of his manga (random sketches; collected in 15 volumes, 1814-1878). He excelled in flower and bird prints, and only Hiroshige was his equal in the design of realistic landscape prints.

Among Hokusai's more than 30,000 designs were the series Chushingura (1806), Waterfall, (1827-1830), and Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji (1823-1830). He died in Edo on May 10, 1849.


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