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Discover 103 Unseen Hokusai Works at the British Museum this September

Updated: Sep 28, 2021

Be part of a global premiere as a rare collection of rediscovered drawings by Hokusai will be on display at the British Museum between 30 September 2021 – 30 January 2022. The exhibition, called “Hokusai The Great Picture Book of Everything,” features 103 recently acquired drawings produced between the 1820s–1840s by the creator of the iconic Great Wave.

Under the Wave off Kanagawa (1831) by Katsushika Hokusai, Colour woodblock oban print. Photo source:
Under the Wave off Kanagawa (1831) by Katsushika Hokusai, colour woodblock oban print. Photo:

The sketches were initially commissioned for an illustrated encyclopaedia titled “The Great Picture Book of Everything” that was never published and could've otherwise been destroyed in the woodblock printing process. Fortunately, now we have the opportunity to discover and marvel at these exceptional artworks recently acquired by the British Museum.

Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) is one of Japan's most celebrated artists, best known for the “Under the Wave off Kanagawa,” print - popularly known as “The Great Wave.”

To give further insight into his working practices the new exhibition will also showcase Hokusai's masterpiece the Great Wave, alongside objects that reveal the complicated process by which he created his woodblock prints.

After a last public presence at a Parisian auction in 1948, the existence of his drawings of “everything” had been forgotten until 2019 when they resurfaced. The upcoming exhibition brings them to the wider public. You can also see them online, here.

And if we're looking closer into the circumstances surrounding Hokusai's grand project, we'll all equally resonate and marvel at his impressive creativity. Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum, said for the Guardian: "These drawings were created in a period of lockdown, if you will, when Japan had closed its borders for 200 years. Contact with the outside world was strictly regulated and even journeys within the country required an official permit. It is a situation many of us can sympathise with.” (source: The Guardian).

The brush drawings depict scenes from the natural world, Buddhist India, and ancient China. They include a diverse range of subjects, from depictions of religious, historical, mythological, and literary figures, to birds, animals, flowers, landscapes, and natural phenomena, showcasing Hokusai's masterful skill and unique style. The show shines a light on the artist’s restless talent, particularly during the last chapter of his mortal existence.

📍 "Hokusai The Great Picture Book of Everything" will be on display in Room 90, British Museum, Great Russell St., London WC1B 3DG

📆 Open from 30 September 2021 – 30 January 2022.

⏰ Daily: 10.00–17.00 (Fridays 20.30).

🎫 Book tickets here.

🚇 The closest tube stations are:

  • Tottenham Court Road (Central Line and Northern Line): 5-minute walk.

  • Holborn (Central Line and Piccadilly Line): 7-minute walk.

  • Russell Square (on the Piccadilly line): 7-minute walk.

  • Goodge Street (Northern Line): 8-minute walk.


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