Katsushika Hokusai, born on October 31, 1760, in Edo (now Tokyo), Japan, was a Japanese ukiyo-e artist of the Edo period, active as a painter and printmaker. He is best known for the woodblock print series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, which includes the iconic print The Great Wave off Kanagawa. Hokusai’s early works represent the full spectrum of ukiyo-e art, including single-sheet prints of landscapes and actors, hand paintings, and surimono (“printed things”). He introduced European perspective to Japanese printmaking, often taking a significant focal point and arranging his prints around this. He used various framing mechanisms to emphasize these focal points and create depth in his images.

Hokusai’s cultural impact is significant. He is widely recognized as one of Japan’s greatest artists, having modernized traditional print styles through his innovations in subject and composition. His work celebrated Japan as a unified nation, depicting a diversity of landscapes and activities linked by shared symbols and stories. He was among the first artists to be shaped by and to shape globalization, drawing from international influences and, later, being embraced by European artists who borrowed his decorative motifs, his practice of working in series, and his vision of contemporary society. To this day, a plethora of artists continue to reckon with his legacy. His work has had a profound influence on art outside Japan. When his work reached Europe, it had a very significant impact on many artists, particularly the “Impressionists”. His most famous image is The Great Wave of Kanagawa which can be found across our visual culture. His legacy continues to influence contemporary art.