Hokusai Picture Study Aid and Art Prints

(8 customer reviews)


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Hokusai Picture Study Aid

Included in this 24-page Hokusai Picture Study Aid (see a sample Picture Study Aid here!) is the following:

  • a brief biography of Japanese ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849).
  • a synopsis of seven of his works (see right).
  • a few book recommendations for additional study (also in the Living Art Books Archive).
  • printable versions of the pieces covered in the PDF version.
  • a brief discussion about Charlotte Mason’s ideas and methods for implementing picture study at different ages is also included.
  • the printed book, which is saddle-stitched with high-quality, 100-lb., smooth paper and full color, includes a portrait of Hokusai at the end.

There is also an option to order separate, professionally-printed copies of each piece for use during your picture study time in the drop-down menu below as well. These are printed on durable cardstock with a smooth finish and display beautifully. The prints do not include the Picture Study Aid PDF download – this is a separate purchase.

The pieces discussed are:

  • Woman Spinning Silk (1790)
  • Old Hat and Sparrows (ca. 1825)
  • Grasshopper and Iris (late 1820s)
  • Under the Wave off Kanagawa (ca. 1830-1832)
  • Old View of the Boat-bridge at Sano in Kōzuke Province (ca. 1830)
  • Poem by Minamoto no Muneyuki Ason (ca. 1835)
  • Poem by Sarumaru Dayū (1839)

I have drawn things since I was six. All that I made before the age of 65 is not worth counting. At 73 I began to understand the true construction of animals, plants, trees, birds, fishes, and insects. At 90 I will enter into the secret of things. At 110, everything – every dot, every dash – will live. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age, I used to call myself Hokusai, but today I sign myself ‘The Old Man Mad About Drawing.’


Under the Wave off Kanagawa (also known as “The Great Wave”) is probably one of the most iconic images in the world. In a relatively simple design and with just a few colors, Hokusai captured the tumultuous movement of an enormous, larger-than-life (and more prominent than Mount Fuji!) wave reaching out with aquatic claws for two boats that just might be destroyed in the next moment. The men in the boats, bent on continuing their rowing despite the potential doom at their backs, go on with their rhythmic strokes, determined to get across Tokyo bay. Why is this painting so famous, even to the point of having its own emoji?????? This is an excellent question to ask during your picture study time!

As with so many other artists, Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) was an interesting character. He wore a few different hats in his early life, both in his manner of earning a living and his identity, even while trying to gain a reputation as an artist. I have read that he was cantankerous, reclusive, and hated cleaning so much that he simply moved when his current house became unbearable rather than cleaning it. He is known for making a painting so large that the entire thing could only be seen from the roof of the palace and an illustration so small that it fit on a grain of rice. While some of the things we think we know about him may be myth and some may be fact, his desire to be known as “The Old Man Mad About Drawing (or Painting in some translations)” is more than fitting for him considering his skill and the sheer multitude of art he put out during his lifetime.

Hokusai offers us a glimpse of everyday life in Japan at a time when it was still closed to the rest of the world (the Kanagawa Treaty was signed just five years after he died). And thanks to the woodblock printing process, during his lifetime, he offered affordable art to the masses. This is also an enormous gift to the modern world, as you can find his prints in nearly every major museum today.

The intention of this picture study aid is to equip the home educator with some basic facts and understanding of a sampling of the work of Katsushika Hokusai. It is not meant to be an exhaustive analysis or study of each piece or a complete biography of the artist.

About picture study, Ms. Mason recommended keeping learning as simple as possible, especially in the younger years, and put extra emphasis on the images by themselves.

There is no talk about schools of painting, little about style; consideration of these matters comes in later life, the first and most important thing is to know the pictures themselves. As in a worthy book we leave the author to tell his own tale, so do we trust a picture to tell its tale through the medium the artist gave it. In the region of art as else-where we shut out the middleman. (vol 6 pg 216)

Definite teaching is out of the question; suitable ideas are easily given, and a thoughtful love of Art inspired by simple natural talk over the picture at which the child is looking. (PR Article “Picture Talks”)

…we begin now to understand that art is not to be approached by such an acadamised road. It is of the spirit, and in ways of the spirit must we make our attempt. We recognise that the power of appreciating art and of producing to some extent an interpretation of what one sees is as universal as intelligence, imagination, nay, speech, the power of producing words. But there must be knowledge and, in the first place, not the technical knowledge of how to produce, but some reverent knowledge of what has been produced; that is, children should learn pictures, line by line, group by group, by reading, not books, but pictures themselves. A friendly picture-dealer supplies us with half a dozen beautiful little reproductions of the work of some single artist, term by term. After a short story of the artist’s life and a few sympathetic words about his trees or his skies, his river-paths or his figures, the little pictures are studied one at a time; that is, children learn, not merely to see a picture but to look at it, taking in every detail.” (vol 6 pg 214)

This Picture Study Aid is meant to offer basic information about the artists as well as ready answers should your student ask about a particular aspect of a piece and the explanation isn’t readily evident. Ms. Mason emphasized not focusing on strict academic discourse when doing picture study, but rather simply exposing students to the art itself:

His education should furnish him with whole galleries of mental pictures, pictures by great artists old and new;––…––in fact, every child should leave school with at least a couple of hundred pictures by great masters hanging permanently in the halls of his imagination, to say nothing of great buildings, sculpture, beauty of form and colour in things he sees. Perhaps we might secure at least a hundred lovely landscapes too,––sunsets, cloudscapes, starlight nights. At any rate he should go forth well furnished because imagination has the property of magical expansion, the more it holds the more it will hold. (vol 6 pg 43)

8 reviews for Hokusai Picture Study Aid and Art Prints

4.8 Rating
1-5 of 8 reviews
  1. The prints are a high quality and just beautiful and the study aid provides a good starting place for learning about the artist and links to add to weekly picture study time.

  2. Rebecca takes the guesswork out of picture study. I used to compile pieces and information on my own, and once I found these aids I never DIY-ed picture study again. Prints are always beautiful and the background information adds greatly to our discussions. Beautiful

  3. Prints were beautiful. I found the short biography not very enjoyable unfortunately.

  4. High quality prints and lovely selection. Well researched and lovingly put together.

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