Hokusai: Old Man Crazy to Paint

Hokusai: Old Man Crazy to Paint


The British Museum’s current exhibition is named “Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave” because for most of us, rightly or wrongly, that vivid image will be the only one we know by one of Japanese art’s great masters.

Watch this loving documentary, though, and you might come away with a new favourite. There’s plenty of choice, but for me it was a hanging scroll from 1849 (when Hokusai was in his late 80s), which features the saddest, most tormented expression you’ll ever see on the face of a dragon.

“Until the age of 70, nothing I drew was worthy of notice,” Hokusai claimed, though Patricia Wheatley’s profile takes us briskly through the stages of a career in which apart from anything else, he more or less invented the graphic novel and the visual style of animation. Among those singing his praises here are Maggi Hambling and David Hockney.


Biography of the world-renowned Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, whose print The Great Wave off Kanagawa helped make his name. With Andy Serkis reading the voice of Hokusai, the film features artists David Hockney and Maggi Hambling, and scholars who study, admire and venerate this Japanese master.