Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Autumn 2008, vol 6 no 3


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Katsushika Hokusai    ~    woodblocking prints

Katsushika Hokusai (1760 - 1849; also known as: Shunro Hokusai) was an individualistic, innovative Edo painter and print master, world famous for his prints of Mount Fuji, the most celebrated mountain in Japan. Hokusai designed prints for nearly 70 years, studying almost every style and type of painting available to him. As a child he was apprenticed to an engraver where he learned to cut wood blocks for prints. At the age of 18 Hokusai entered the studio of the leading Kabuki artist, Katsukawa Shunsho. Early in the following year he published his first known works, actor prints, under the name Shunro. In 1875 he quarreled with Shunsho and was dismissed from his studio. About 1797 he began to use the name Hokusai. In 1814 the remarkable Manga volumes began to appear. By 1816 he was doing some of his finest paintings, including the great landscapes. After 1820 all the great sets of prints such as 36 Views of Mt. Fuji began to appear. He was one of the great draftsmen of the world, known for very daring landscapes and seascapes.

Original surimono were often commissioned by poetry circles and privately published. Surimono represent the peak in Japanese woodblock printing techniques. Their costly production resulted in very limited editions of a handful of impressions of each design only.

Most copies of surimono were published at the end of the nineteenth or the beginning of the twentieth century. The majority of then were based on surimono in the square format that had been published in the city of Edo (modern Tokyo) in the 1810s and 1820s.

The ground-breaking publication of Roger Keyes, The Art of the Surimono, provided an effective categorization of these surimono copies.

A special thank you to Robyn Buntin of Honolulu ( ) for use of these images and their accompanying text.

Copyright 2008: Simply Haiku