A Collection of Hokusai’s Drawings Are Being Carved Onto Woodblocks & Printed for the First Time Ever

If you know any­thing about the ukiyo‑e mas­ters of eigh­teenth- and nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry Japan like Kita­gawa Uta­maro, Uta­gawa Hiroshige, and Kat­sushi­ka Hoku­sai, you know that they became renowned through wood­block prints. But in almost all cas­es, a wood­block print begins in anoth­er medi­um: the medi­um of the draw­ing, where the artist works out the image before com­mit­ting (or hav­ing it com­mit­ted) to a block of wood for print­ing. This process, as Tokyo-based Cana­di­an print­mak­er David Bull explains in the video above, entailed the destruc­tion of the orig­i­nal draw­ing — or at least it did a cou­ple of cen­turies ago, before the advent of copy machines, let alone high-res­o­lu­tion dig­i­tal scan­ners.

Our time has not only these tech­no­log­i­cal­ly advanced tools, but also, as pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture, a wealth of redis­cov­ered draw­ings by Hoku­sai him­self. “The exis­tence of these exquis­ite small draw­ings had been for­got­ten,” says the site of the British Muse­um. “Last pub­licly record­ed at a Parisian auc­tion in 1948, they are said to have been in a pri­vate col­lec­tion in France before resur­fac­ing in 2019.”

Hav­ing acquired the 103 images that con­sti­tute this Great Pic­ture Book of Every­thing, the British Muse­um has entered into a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Bull, whose work­shop Mokuhankan is tak­ing a selec­tion of these draw­ings — nev­er print­ed in Hoku­sai’s day — and carv­ing them into wood­blocks for the first time ever.

You can enjoy this project, called Hoku­sai Reborn, by fol­low­ing its progress on Bul­l’s Youtube chan­nel; the first two episodes of the series appear just above. You can also pur­chase a sub­scrip­tion to receive copies of the actu­al prints now being made from Hoku­sai’s draw­ings at Mokuhankan. “The prints will be 13.5 x 18.5 cm in for­mat (slight­ly larg­er than 5 x 7 inch­es),” says the page at the stu­dio’s site with more infor­ma­tion on that, “and will be made on a thin ver­sion of our usu­al hosho washi, made in the work­shop of Iwano Ichibei,” one of Japan’s offi­cial­ly des­ig­nat­ed Liv­ing Nation­al Trea­sures. This sales mod­el is in keep­ing with the com­mer­cial mod­el of ukiyo‑e in the Edo peri­od of the sev­en­teenth through the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, when a bur­geon­ing mer­chant class formed a robust cus­tomer base for its arti­sans. Here we have an unex­pect­ed oppor­tu­ni­ty to become one of those cus­tomers — and, per­haps, to own the next Great Wave Off Kana­gawa.

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed con­tent:

View 103 Dis­cov­ered Draw­ings by Famed Japan­ese Wood­cut Artist Kat­sushi­ka Hoku­sai

The Great Wave Off Kana­gawa by Hoku­sai: An Intro­duc­tion to the Icon­ic Japan­ese Wood­block Print in 17 Min­utes

Thir­ty-Six Views of Mount Fuji: A Deluxe New Art Book Presents Hokusai’s Mas­ter­piece, Includ­ing The Great Wave Off Kana­gawa

The Evo­lu­tion of The Great Wave off Kana­gawa: See Four Ver­sions That Hoku­sai Paint­ed Over Near­ly 40 Years

Watch the Mak­ing of Japan­ese Wood­block Prints, from Start to Fin­ish, by a Long­time Tokyo Print­mak­er

Get Free Draw­ing Lessons from Kat­sushi­ka Hoku­sai, Who Famous­ly Paint­ed The Great Wave of Kana­gawa: Read His How-To Book, Quick Lessons in Sim­pli­fied Draw­ings

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.