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Musée National Des Arts Asiatiques Guimet Presents Hokusai
Thirty six views of Mont Fuji ( Fugaku sanjûrokkei). Ejiri in the province of Suruga (Sunshû Ejiri), 1830-1832. Polychrom print (nishiki-e), ôban format . Publisher : Eijudô. Signature : zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu. Raymond Koechlin bequest, 1932 EO 3286 © musée Guimet / Thierry Ollivier

PARIS.- Musée National Des Arts Asiatiques Guimet presents Hokusai - "mad about his art” From Edmond de Goncourt to Norbert Lagane, on view through August 4, 2008. A complete exhibition on the Japanese artist that had the longest lasting influence on Western art. The exhibition was curated by Hélène Bayou, Chief Currator of the Musée national des arts asiatiques Guimet.

The Guimet Museum organized the first retrospective of its entire Hokusai collection, following the addition of major works. Including recent discoveries, this is a new look at the work of one of the masters of Japanese prints. It is presented to the public in tribute to a great benefactor: Norbert Lagane.

Katsuchika Hokusai (1760-1849) created thousands of paintings, drawings, woodcuts, illustrated books and technical manuals intended for painters and craftsmen. The Guimet Museum’s graphic art collection today houses around 130 works attributed to him. Polychrome prints as famous as the Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji are found next to preparatory drawings, sketches and some paintings which throw light on another facet of this painter’s creative activity. Hokusai influenced the genre of Japanese woodcuts – Ukiyo-e or “Pictures of the floating world”, so called because they described the pleasurable life of courtesans, dancers and kabuki actors. But it has stretched far beyond, inspiring European collectors and painters such as Degas, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, etc (the latter possessing a very rich collection of prints), and thus giving rise to “Japanism”.

Even so, despite the renown that this maestro has enjoyed in Europe, and in France in particular, since the beginning of the 19th century, no exhibition devoted solely to Hokusai has ever been organised by the Guimet Museum. An outstanding gift made in 2001 enabled a painting by Hokusai never before displayed to enter the Museum’s collections: the Dragon among Clouds, a kakemono included in Norbert Lagane’s donation. As it turns out, this forms a pair with the famous Tiger in the Rain scroll, housed in the Ota Memorial Museum of Art in Tokyo. Two sales from the Huguette Berès collection organised in Paris in 2002 and then in 2003 as part of the late Mme Berès’s estate, also gave the Museum the chance to acquire a series of preparatory drawings, as well as an extremely rare print of Mont Fuji in Blue. As a footnote to these discoveries, the project undertaken in 2006 to restore artworks included scientific analyses of the type of paper and pigments used.

Hokusai and his followers - These acquisitions led the Guimet Museum finally to present the Hokusai collection in its entirety to the public. His life, a moving quest for perfection, is explained through the exhibition in six major periods. His famous landscape prints are joined by beautiful young women and woodcuts with erotic connotations (shun-ga – images of spring). Since the origin of the Ukiyo-e woodcuts, the subject of Woman had been one of the themes especially favoured by artists, and popular with the public. Less well-known works (having never been published) or certain paintings hitherto unseen, complete this ensemble. Barely recognised in Japan, victims of censorship, these artists produced art that was considered lightweight and populist by the elites of the day.

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