Preparatory drawing (hanshita-e) for an illustrated book, mounted on card. Sea monster assailing a ship. Ink on paper. © The Trustees of the British Museum
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103 recently uncovered drawings by the Japanese painter and printmaker Katsushika Hokusai were added to the British Museum’s collection. The works, which resurfaced for the first time since 1948 in Paris last year, were created in 1829 for an unpublished book titled Great Picture Book of Everything(Banbutsu ehon taizen zu 万物絵本大全図 )
The small-scale works were previously owned by Art Nouveau jeweler Henri Vever, and the museum said in a release that they had been held in a private collection in France before their reemergence in 2019 at Piasa auction house in Paris. AFP reports details about the discovery, see excerpts below:
The British Museum said Thursday it had acquired 103 “lost” drawings from the 19th century of Japanese artist Hokusai, whose internationally renowned work includes the iconic “The Great Wave”.
The black-and-white drawings were composed in 1829, when Hokusai was 70, as illustrations for an unpublished book. They resurfaced in Paris in 2019 after they were last publicly recorded at an auction in 1948.
Their subjects range from the religious and historical to the mythological, and include previously unknown features of Hokusai’s oeuvre such as a musing on the origins of human culture in ancient China, the London museum said in a statement.
“These works are a major new re-discovery, expanding considerably our knowledge of the artist’s activities at a key period in his life and work,” honorary research fellow Tim Clark said.
“All 103 pieces are treated with the customary fantasy, invention and brush skill found in Hokusai’s late works and it is wonderful that they can finally be enjoyed by the many lovers of his art worldwide,” he said.
The drawings are available to view online and will feature in a future, free exhibition, the museum said.
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