What the Artist Saw Hokusai


What the Artist Saw Hokusai is the latest addition to a quality series of art history books, opened by What the Artist Saw Vincent van Gogh. As with that title, we learn of Hokusai’s early years, from his childhood polishing mirrors, to training in a ‘woodblock carver’s workshop‘. Yet we learn of his further arts’ education in the ‘art style called ukiyo- e‘. We realise Hokusai’s quick skill and ability to follow tradition, alongside his need to show what he saw. Thereafter, this conflicted with Japanese tradition, so that he did not seek to show what was perfect, but what was real.

Then again, we see how in his long life, Hokusai sought more, whether it was to use a variety of styles, learn from other cultures or to practise an interpretation or observation, as of Mount Fuji.

Alongside the art history, readers are invited to practise their own art skills, as Hokusai would, for example, drawing ‘a scene of people enjoying themselves‘. Thereafter, we look over his works, from traditional cherry woodblock prints to his representation of footprints, or ‘maple leaves floating on the Tatsuta River’!

Bookwagon loves this series. Every book offers so much information and inspiration. Therefore, we are delighted to welcome What the Artist Saw Hokusai, aboard!

Add to Wishlist
Add to Wishlist


What the Artist Saw Hokusai

He saw the world in a wave

Susie Hodge, illustrated by Kim Ekdahl

(Penguin Random House DK)- hardback

While ‘Hokusai’s most famous print is Under the Wave off Kanagawa‘ there is a lot more to this Japanese artist than this work. In fact, previously to this, at ‘70 years old’ he’d been inspired by Mount Fuji. This inspiration led to works ‘at different times of day, in all seasons and from different angles and distances‘. HIs dedication to this focus, ‘produced 36 pictures- 10 more, and a few years later- 100 more in three volumes of books’. 
What’s more, Hokusai’s journey is unique, not just within art, but within his home country. While he received traditional training in a ‘woodblock carver’s workshop‘ he was inspired by ‘different styles‘ and other cultures, too. This meant that Hokusai’s determination to ‘make his pictures look real‘ conflicted with Japanese tradition, where artists tried to make everything look perfect. Then again, this artist’s  ‘designs in his own style‘ became popular surimono commissions.
What the Artist Saw Hokusai, is the latest addition to a superb and satisfying series. Bookwagon loves the quality and depth of information, alongside the quotes, interspersing of art examples and then questions to the reader, too. What’s more, these include opportunities to practise skills. For example, you might ‘draw a picture for a calendar, showing one of the seasons‘. Altogether, as with What the Artist Saw Faith Ringgold, Bookwagon recommends this book highly for home and school.


There are no reviews yet.

Be the first to review “What the Artist Saw Hokusai”

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like…