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The Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Hokusai
British MuseumThe Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Hokusai

Wave hello: the British Museum has bought 103 ‘lost’ Hokusai drawings

There’s more to the guy than ‘The Great Wave’

Written by
Eddy Frankel

It’s one of the most famous images in the world: Katsushika Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave Off Kanagawa’ is properly ubiquitous. It’s on tote bags and posters, phone cases and biscuit tins. And its ubiquity, its everywhere-ness, is intentional, in many ways. The great Japanese artist created the woodblock print between 1829 and 1833 with the idea that it would be reproduced and seen by as many people as possible, and it worked. It was hugely popular in the nineteenth century and it’s hugely popular today – a superstar of art.

Katsushika Hokusai, 1829. © The Trustees of the British Museum
Katsushika Hokusai, 1829. © The Trustees of the British Museum

But one of the problems that comes with making such a well-known piece of art is that people rarely know about your other work. And that’s a damn shame, because a lot of Hokusai’s non-‘Wave’ stuff is stunning. The British Museum knows that better than most, because the institution has just bought 103 ‘lost’ Hokusai drawings. The set of small works on paper had been forgotten about for more than 70 years, languishing somewhere unknown in Paris, before being rediscovered last year. As soon as they came back to light, the British Museum snatched them up, and now you can see each one in full, zoomed-in digital detail online.

There are some incredible things here – mythical subjects, literary figures, animals, flowers and landscapes – and now they’re free for everyone to see. That’s some art news worth making waves about.

Find art you can see in real life right here

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