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Hokusai: The Man Who Painted a Mountain Hardcover – October 9, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
The spirit of Hokusai, the Japanese artist best-known for his Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, moves through the pages of Ray's (The Barn Owl) study with indefatigable energy. Born in 1760 and a rare peasant to rise to prominence during an era when Japan remained closed to the outside world, Hokusai outshone his masters and defied convention until his death at age 89. The painter, who never knew his father and whose mother died when he was just six years old, developed a quiet confidence and portrayed the peasantry from whence he came: " `I must paint the way my heart tells me,' he told wealthy patrons when they refused to buy his pictures of laboring artisans and humble farmers toiling in the fields." Ray's wash and colored-pencil illustrations depict Kabuki stages and fish markets that echo Hokusai's own sketches of everyday life (reproduced on the book's endpapers) yet her style remains her own. Instead of emulating the empty spaces and delicate brushwork characteristic of Japanese artwork, she drafts her figures with tangible weight and mass and clothes them in heavily shaded robes in deep blue, red and aqua. The text supplies plenty of historical background without undue complexity. Older children will be drawn to Hokusai's lively world, and adults will find inspiration in the man who wrote as he lay dying, "Even as a ghost/ I'll gaily tread/ the summer moors." Ages 7-up.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Born into poverty and orphaned at six years old, Hokusai longed for an environment that would allow him the opportunity to read and draw. Although faced with dire challenges, his determination and talent carried him through childhood until he could set his course on a road that led to greatness. Hokusai produced 30,000 works of art, including the famous Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. This picture-book biography tells of the life of a man who influenced Western Impressionists as well as Eastern talents. The text and evocative artwork provide details and scenes of everyday Japanese life in the 19th century. The illustrations include accomplished soft watercolor and colored-pencil paintings, labeled Chinese characters, drawings from the artist's sketchbooks, and a reproduction of Hokusai's "The Great Wave off Kanagawa." Julia Altmann's One Day in Japan with Hokusai (Prestel, 2001) is a semi-fictionalized account of the man illustrated with his woodblock prints. Ray's delightful offering will be enjoyed by budding artists and biography fans, and will be a useful adjunct to studies on art, artists, or Japan and its culture.
Ilene Abramson, Los Angeles Public Library
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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Amazingly he changed his place of residence more than ninety times. Every morning he sketched a *lion-dog* for good luck. It may have had something to do with his longevity; he did not die until he was in his ninetieth year! He painted often the actors in the Noh theatre, and the more plebeian Kabuki plays. Those flamboyant actors leant themselves to portraiture that easily found buyers. His woodcut "The Great Wave off Kanegawa" (reproduced in Ray's book) has probably been "altered" or used for cartoons, t-shirts, etc., as often as Grant Wood's "American Gothic."
Can any of us imagine composing over 30,000 works of art in a lifetime? Hokusai claimed he drew nothing of great note before the age of 70. He called himself *Gakyo Rojin* which translates "old man mad about painting." As mentioned, his 'output' was prodigious. His mother died when he was six years old. She had promised to take him on a pilgrimage to Mt. Fuji, and his fascination for the mountain never waned. Cherry trees bloomed like billowing clouds on the pilgrims' path in his paintings. I would have thought him too busy and/or preoccupied to have a wife but he did, and they had three children.
Ray's own illustrations are strong in outline & rich colors and happily complement the text and Hokusai's own sketches from his *MANGA* shown in the book's endpapers - - All are an excellent introduction to Hokusai's art. It is a children's biography well-designed for all ages to learn from and savor. Reviewer mcHAIKU highly recommends Deborah Kogan Ray's book for generational sharing. Even though our language is not represented by 'pictographs' some children might be inspired to make their own penmanship more legible - - even artistic!
The author includes words in Kanji (Japanese characters) as well as reproductions of Hokusai's changing signatures.
The narration of the book is peaceful, restful, perfect for reading out loud. Your young artists will enjoy this biography -- a masterpiece in the text and the art.