Go beyond ‘The Great Wave’:
‘One of the world’s most important collections of art has re-emerged after having been lost for more than 70 years.
The corpus – 103 original drawings by the non-Western world’s most famous artist, the 19th century Japanese painter, Hokusai – came to light in Paris and has now been bought by the British Museum.
The newly discovered artworks appear to have formed part of one of the most ambitious publishing projects ever conceived – a Japanese plan to create a huge pictorial encyclopaedia.
Known as the Great Picture Book of Everything, it was conceived by Hokusai (best known for his most famous work – The Great Wave) – but was never completed.
The project was abandoned in the 1830s – either because of cost or possibly because Hokusai insisted on reproduction standards that were difficult to attain.
The Great Picture Book of Everything was to have been a comprehensive way for the Japanese to have access to images of people, cultures and nature around the world – at a time when virtually no Japanese people had been allowed out of Japan for some two centuries – and virtually no foreigners had been allowed into 99 per cent of the country.
In that ultra-restrictive atmosphere, the project was to have given people an opportunity to explore a highly stylised printed version of the outside world as well as Japan itself.
However, so limited was Hokusai’s access to up-to-date images of foreigners and foreign cultures, that he often had to use very old pictures as his source material – which led to him portraying much of the outside world as it would have looked several hundred years earlier….’
— via Independent