Thursday, August 1, 2013

Magicians from the Hokusai Manga

Japanese artist Hokusai first published his sketchbooks, or manga, in 1814. They contain images of animals, plants, landscapes, and a few dashes of magic. 
One set of pages shows the feats of magicians, as told in Japanese folklore. Here is a magician exhaling a horse.

Waves emerge from the palms of this master. The style of the water is similar to the Great Wave print, Hokusai's most famous work.

Here is some sleeve magic. Notice the freedom and simplicity of the little figures, who float upward joyous to be born into the air.

Why not some vanishing magic? The hands are stated so economically, but the pose is clear.

 ....and a face projected into the smoke. James Michener, who collected an edition of these sketches, says, "Some of the feats were common, practical tricks. Others would have been rather sensational in any age. But as might be anticipated, Hokusai feels no obligation to differentiate between the two."

This man is blowing out bees with his breath. (Thanks, Eunice) The sketches fill 14 volumes, all block-printed in black, gray, and flesh color.
Wikipedia on the Hokusai Manga
The best print edition was edited by James Michener: the Hokusai Sketchbooks: Selections from the Manga


Matthew Meyer said...

My friend gave me a copy of a few volumes of the Hokusai manga, and it is one of the coolest bits of art I have. That man knew his gesture drawing. I have never seen any figure work more lively, especially not from something so old!

Thien said...

The technique he uses looks very interesting. Would he have made woodblock of solid color to print and then draw with a brush to make the black lines ? They do look very brushy.

Rosa said...

I've never seen these prints, though while living in Japan, I had the opportunity to see a couple of exhibitions of Hokusai's work. I was impressed by his skills, yes, but really impressed by his sense of humor as expressed in his art. He's a really funny guy!

Unknown said...

I would love to know what surface you paint your oils on. I am a great admirer of you work. Cheers
Robin J Mitchell

Unknown said...

When I was an art major at Syracuse University I discovered Hokusai in the university art library. I love h is work and have since collected a few of his books and one about how he used figures in his woodcuts. His name means " Old Man Crazy About Painting "... or was it Drawing. Thank you so much for posting these drawings. Nancy Taylor

RobNonStop said...

In 2011 I got to visit the Hokusai Exhibition in Berlin – it was amazing. In addition to the most famous works and many very rare pieces they also had computers that stored all issues of Hokusai Manga and you could browse every page.