Over the course of a 70-year career, Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai created thousands of woodblock prints, paintings, and drawings. And while many of these pieces like The Great Wave are well known, others have been presumed lost for almost two centuries. The British Museum is presenting a collection of 103 unseen Hokusai drawings from an unpublished encyclopedia entitled Banmotsu ehon daizen zu (translation: The Great Picture Book of Everything) in an exhibition.
Made with ink on paper, these preparatory woodblock drawings, or hanashita-e, would have normally been destroyed when the artist used them to carve the design into a block. However, since the encyclopedia was never executed, they have remained undisturbed inside a wooden box since the 1820s–1840s. The variety of subjects depicted in the series reflect Hokusai’s vivid imagination, especially during a time when Japanese people were not permitted to leave the country. All of these pieces are on display for the first time at the British Museum, and available to view online.
Concurrent to the Hokusai exhibition is another first-ever of the artist’s work—an NFT sale. The British Museum has partnered with French start-up LaCollection.io to sell NFTs of 200 Hokusai works, including The Great Wave and the drawings from The Great Picture Book of Everything. All of the images will be sold on LaCollection’s website, either through an auction or at a fixed price. “For me it is important to democratize art,” says LaCollection co-founder and entrepreneur Jean-Sébastien Beaucamps. “This is a way of helping museums attract a younger, more diverse, and more international public.”
Hokusai: The Great Picture Book of Everything is on display at the British Museum from September 30, 2021, until January 30, 2022. You can book tickets online.
British Museum is hosting an exhibition of Japanese artist Hokusai’s art called Hokusai: The Great Picture of Everything.
Katsushika Hokusai, “India, China, Korea,” ink on paper, 1820s–40s. (Photo via British Museum)
The show features 103 unpublished drawings by Hokusai.
Katsushika Hokusai, “Water birds,” ink on paper, 1820s–40s. (Photo via British Museum)
The British Museum is also selling 200 NFTs of Hokusai’s work, including The Great Wave and the drawings from the exhibition.
Katsushika Hokusai, “Virudhaka (Ruriō) killed by lightning,” ink on paper, 1820s–40s. (Photo via British Museum)
Katsushika Hokusai, “India, river of quicksand. The wind forms waves in the sand,” ink on paper, 1820s–40s. (Photo via British Museum)
Katsushika Hokusai, “Yi Di (Giteki) orders the people to use rice juice to brew wine,” ink on paper, 1820s–40s. (Photo via British Museum)
Paulownia-wood storage box for the 103 drawings of Katsushika Hokusai’s “The Great Picture Book of Everything, inscribed with the title and name of the artist. Wood, paper, silk textile, 1820s–1840s. (Photo via British Museum)