SOAS University of London

SOAS scholar’s research informs British Museum exhibition on Japanese artist Hokusai

23 May 2017

Together with colleagues at the British Museum, Dr Angus Lockyer, Lecturer in the Department of History at SOAS University of London, is engaged in research on Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, which has underpinned a major new exhibition at the British Museum, opening this week.


Above: Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa

Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave is the first exhibition in the UK to focus on the later years of the life and art of Katsushika Hokusai. Hokusai (1760-1849) has long enjoyed a strong international reputation and is considered by many to be Japan’s greatest artist. The exhibition features his iconic print ‘The Great Wave’ of c. 1831 and continues to the painted works produced right up to his death at the age of 90. Supported by Mitsubishi Corporation, Hokusai: beyond the Great wave provides new insight into the prodigiously productive last thirty years of Hokusai’s life and art from around 1820 to 1849.

Dr Lockyer said: “Hokusai captivated the Japanese public in his lifetime, quickly caught the eye of Euro-American artists, and has continued to fascinate a global audience ever since. His Great Wave (c. 1831) is now likely the most reproduced image in the world. But it was only the starting point for an outpouring of work in his last decades, which challenges us to rethink what we know about him and his significance for world art.”

The exhibition will adopt a new approach, exploring Hokusai’s later career in thematic as well as chronological terms. It will shed light on Hokusai’s personal beliefs and his spiritual and artistic quest through major paintings, drawings, woodblock prints and illustrated books. Many of the works have never been seen before in the UK and can only be displayed for a limited length of time. The exhibition will be complemented by a number of events, including an international symposium at the end of this week, evening and lunchtime lectures and panels, and gallery talks.

The exhibition has been supported by a joint research project between the British Museum and SOAS, Late Hokusai: Thought, Technique, Society, which was awarded a major grant of nearly £930,000 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The project is led by Timothy Clark at the British Museum, started in April 2016, and will continue until March 2019, leading to a number of outputs, including an innovative digital resource for the study of Hokusai’s life and work.

To find out more, visit the exhibition website.