Katsushika Hokusai‘s studies of birds and flowers, an artistic genre called kachô-e, are the lesser known of all his works. Kachô-e were popular in the early eighteenth century (1720s-1750s) with the Torii school of print makers. Hokusai was the first to develop kachô-e as a truly independent theme for the single-sheet print format.
When he was 12, his father sent him to work in a bookshop and lending library, where the books were made from wood-cut blocks. Two years later, he became an apprentice to a wood-carver. He worked here until he turned 18. After this, was accepted into the studio of Katsukawa Shunshō, a ukiyo-e artist. Ukiyo-e focused on images of the courtesans and Kabuki actors.
After Shunshō’s death in 1793, Hokusai began exploring French and Dutch copper engravings. He changed the subjects of his works, focusing more on landscapes and images of the daily Japanese life. A change that was a breakthrough in ukiyo-e. Next, he began to produce brush paintings, called surimono.
In 1811, he created the Hokusai Manga. His later sketches and caricatures influenced the modern form of today’s manga. In all there are 12 volumes that include thousands of drawings.
“Shokoku taki meguri” are woodblock prints created from views of the most famous waterfalls in Japan and published in 1832. These “Obanyoko-e“ prints are fluid and alive, contrasting the breathtaking majesty of nature with the small and fragile human forms nearby. The idealistic images take the viewer to a place found in the vivid imagination of Katsushika Hokusai. So exquisite are the details that one can almost hear the tumbling water crash and roar as its foaming mass sprays the air and crawls over the rocks below .
Oban is one of three popular print sizes, oban being 10 by 15 inches/25.4 by 38 centimeters in size. Yoko-e is used for a print in the landscape format. Other popular print sizes are Chuban yoko-e, 7.5 inches by 10/19 centimeters by 25.5, and Aiban yoko-e, 9 by 3inches/22.5 by 34.5 centimeters.