Japan Italy: Hokusai “In the footsteps of the master”

Hokusai: In the footsteps of the master

Photo credits: arapacis.it

Katsushika Hokusai (葛 飾 北 斎?, Edo, October or November 1760 – Edo, May 10, 1849) was a Japanese painter and engraver, mainly known for his ukiyo-e works. This is an art genre typical of Japan and it consists of a print on paper with a wooden mold, thriving in the Edo period.

With a career over sixty years long where he explored various forms of art, he is known by the public mainly thanks to his famous ‘Hundred views of Mount Fuji’. In particular the “Kanagawa Great Wave”, which has become the symbol of this collection, is now part of the mass culture. His works not only spread all over the world, but have also been a source of inspiration for many European impressionist artists such as Claude Monet, and many post-Impressionists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin.

Photo credits: arapacis.it

For some years now, Italy has been hosting several exhibitions dedicated to this great artist. First in Milan at the Museo del ‘900 and now in Rome. In fact, from October 12, 2017 to January 14, 2018, at the Ara Pacis Museum, Hokusai’s works will be available to the public in an exhibition called “In The Footsteps of the Master”. A great display that illustrates and compares about 200 works from Master Hokusai’s production with those of the artists that followed in his footsteps.

Photo credits: arapacis.it

The exhibition held at the Royal Palace in Milan preceded the one held at the British Museum in London, and now in the Italian capital it is possible to admire works gathered from different museums and collections. Among others, the Chiba City Museum of Art, and important Japanese collectors like Uragami Mitsuru Collection and Kawasaki Isago no Sato Museum, as well as the Museo d’arte Orientale Edoardo Chiossone in Genoa.

As we mentioned before, this exhibition illustrates and compares Master Hokusai’s production with that of some of the artists who followed in his footsteps, creating new lines, new shapes, new colors, and a new ukiyo-e school.

Photo credits: arapacis.it

From nature to kabuki actors, from female beauties to warriors, arriving to the imagery of ghosts, spirits and semi-legendary beings, these will be the themes that visitors will find on display. The techniques and formats Hokusai used for his works varies greatly. From ink and color painting realised on vertical or horizontal scrolls, to polychromatic xylographies of all sizes, to the finest surimi. The latter were used as greeting cards, invitations for tea ceremonies and more.

Photo credits: arapacis.it

From the press release of the exhibition, we can read that the showcase consists of five sections that will cover the most fashionable and most sought themes from the market of the time:

1- MEISHŌ: places not to be missed

It features the most famous series of Hokusai: the Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji, the Eight views of Ōmi, the three volumes on the Hundred views of Fuji and a scroll painting of Mount Fuji, presented for the first time in Italy and in absolute preview.

This section illustrates travel destinations and famous places that a Japanese of the Edo period shouldn’t absolutely miss or at least had to know: waterfalls, bridges and natural places of the faraway provinces, views of Mount Fuji from renowned spots, inns and restaurants, and postal towns along the Tōkaido road that connected Edo (Tokyo) to Kyoto.

There is also Hokusai’s “Great Wave”, which can be appreciated in two different versions that will be alternated halfway through the exposition for conservative reasons: one from the Museo d’arte Orientale Edoardo Chiossone of Genoa, the other from the Kawasaki Isago no Sato Museum collection, as well as many other important xyloghaphies of the Thirty-eight views of Mount Fuji comparable in their double version..

2- Fashionable beauty

A series of remarkable scroll paintings and polygraphic xylographies dedicated to the portraits of female beauties and courtesans from the famous tea houses in Yoshiwara’s renowned entertainment district compares the style of master Hokusai with that of some of his most famous students including Gessai Utamasa, Ryūryūkyō Shinsai, Hokumei, Teisai Hokuba.

In particular, it underlines the novelty of Keisai Eisen’s composition, great personality in the field of female portrait, that draws a true fashion reportage, wrapping up his women and putting them in a position able to highlight their kimonos and imposing obi, refined fabrics with elegant motifs, very colorful and always designed down to the smallest detail.

In this context, it has also been included a small but sophisticated collection of images linked to seduction and the world of pleasure and eroticism, that compares Hokusai with Eisen through “dangerous”  (abunae) xyloghraphies, in which  some love-exchange situations can be perceived without revealing its sexual aspect, sublimated through the beauty of fabrics and clothes that cover the bodies and make the audience dream, as well as the famous pages of Hokusai’s erotic volume “Kinoe no Komatsu”.

3- Fortune and good deed

In a xylography format, belonging to Eisen in this case, and through a series of eleven scroll paintings by Hokusai representing people’s divinities of fortune, the audience can see some of the most popular subjects of the time like charms, protections, wish for special occasions. All works exhibited for the first time in Italy.

4- Capture the essence of nature

A comparison between Hokusai and his students through a series of scroll paintings from Japan on the theme of nature and animals to emphasize the classic motifs of painting with “flowers and birds”, and the symbolic value of some animals such as dragon, tiger, carp, rooster reproposed in the style of each artist.

5- Manga and manuals to learn

The complete series of 15 volumes of Hokusai’s Mangas are displayed in this section and it refer to the traits and the strength that the master is able to give to every creature he decides to represent, but also to his will to teach the rules of painting to artists and enthusiasts. Beside Hokusai’s volumes, an album of his student Shotei retraces subjects and forms of his master offering similar pages full of drawings and sketches.

Photo credits: arapacis.it


Museo dell’Ara Pacis


From October 12, 2017 to January 14, 2018
Every day  9.30-19.30
On December 24 and 31 9.30-14.00

The ticket office closes an hour before
Closed on December 25 and January 1

Admission ticket

Exhibition only:

€ 11,00 whole-price ticket; € 9,00€ reduced-price ticket


Tel. 060608 every day 9.00-19.00

The 100 views of Mount Fuji in Arcore

Photo credits: arapacis.it

At the same time, after the great success of the exhibition in Milan, Hokusai returns to Lombardy and this time comes to Arcore.  The free entrance exhibition entitled “HOKUSAI. 100 views of Fuji. One hundred ways to talk about God without ever naming him” inaugurated on Saturday, October 7. The exhibition organised by Bruno Gallotta and Alberto Moioli is hosted by the Scuderie of Villa Borromeo and will allow the public to see 102 images created by the hand of the great Japanese artist.

Photo credits: wikipedia.org 

This exhibition illustrates the spiritual interpretation that the Japanese artist has unconsciously (or deliberately) inserted into his works.

“It has been proven that Hokusai was a faithful Buddhist and is equally certain that he was an educated person: so he knew well that “FU NI”, as well as being one of the possible ways to write the name of the famous volcano, is a particularly significant expression of the Mahayana Buddhism from which derived all the Buddhist traditions that spread in China and Japan”, the organisers say.
“This exhibition aims to demonstrate that the Mount Fuji used by Hokusai as a spiritual symbol and called “FU NI” contemplates both meanings. For this purpose, for interested visitors, some copies of the exegetical text have been prepared and are available for free consultation”.

Photo credits: wikipedia.org 

Thanks to the sponsorship of the European Office of Zen Buddhism (Soto), the showcase finally comes to Arcore after having touched Lodi in 2015 and Piacenza in 2016 as part of the celebrations for 150 years of relationship between Italy and Japan.

The exhibition is open only on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 7pm.

Photo credits: wikipedia.org 

Schedule and related events


Scuderie of Villa Borromeo


October 7 – 22, 2017
Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 7pm

Related events

Sunday, October 8 at 17pm, meeting with Giuseppe Jiso Forzani “Art, Nature, Religion in Japanese Sensibility”

Tuesday, October 10, at the Nuovo Teatro Cinema of Arcore, the film dedicated to the Japanese master and created by the British Museum of London will be screened in Italian.

Saturday, October 14 at 17pm, meeting with Bruno Gallotta “Hokusai: An Unprecedented Reading” An interpretative key still unexplored “.

Saturday, October 21 at 17 pm meeting with Ornella Civardi “Jisei” – Reading of Japanese poems with the musical accompaniment of Alexander Zyumbrovskiy’s cello.