This look at the work and life of block-print artist Katsushika Hokusai (1740-1849) begins with the political context of the Edo shogunate at the time of his birth: peasants driven off their land come to the city; a merchant class is emerging; samurais’ power wanes. Hokusai lives in poverty, apprenticed as a printmaker, studying under the best artists of the day, especially Korin. Hokusai’s unique style strives for realism. The camera slowly pans Hokusai’s art: we see prints popular with merchants and commoners, particularly his caricatures; his subjects are often people at work. Late in life, political turmoil becomes his subject.
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