master copy

Copy of a Masterpiece: Hokusai - 100 Views of Mt. Fuji
I recently came across an old book at Borders that I couldn't pass up. It's the 100 Views of Mt. Fuji, prints by Hokusai. I redrew one of the prints to see how each mark was created, and wrap my mind around the way this piece felt to create. This particular print is called "Fukurokuju", with an excerpt from the book that describes the meaning of this piece. I can see why these "100 Views" are considered Hokusai's Master Works, with layers and layers of symbolism infused in each beautiful print.

"This decorative view, as Suzuki has pointed out, is a rebus for "Fukurokuju," the name of one of the Seven Gods of Happiness. Fuku and -roku-, both of which mean "good luck," are represented as animals, which are homonyms when read in the Chinese manner: fuku for bat and roku for deer. Hence we see the deer on the rock below and the three bats in the sky. Mt. Fuji itself then becomes -ju, "longevity," a token of the old tradition of Fuji as a source of the elixir of immortality.

The symbolism of immortality is carried through in the very person of Fukurokuju, the god of immortality, and in his companion, the deer, who is reported in Chinese legend to be "a long-lived creature; but instead of becoming white in its old age, it changes to blue when a thousand years old, and to black at its second millenium". The whole view thus takes on a highly auspicious quality and may be interpreted in particular as a reflection of Hokusai's obsession with ever longer life."


  1. That's really interesting that you would do that. When learning Sumi painting, the student first copies the work of a master until he or she can faithfully reproduce their work and only then are the allowed to paint their own creations.

  2. I feel like I remember something like that, really vaguely, hearing that somewhere before. Pretty cool. It's kind of like how the Greek's felt about masterworks and apprentices too.

  3. Anonymous9:41 AM

    I am so glad to see this homage to Hokusai, Ester. One can spend such an enjoyable time in Hokusai's company, exploring each layer of his symbolism as well as his brush work.

    It still amazes me how much I learn from trying to copy an artist's marks and, as r_sail points out, this is how a student is supposed to learn sumi. But I am still very nervous when I do it-- as if I expect The Art Police to immediately spring through the door and carry me off as I cry, "It's only in my sketchbook--honest!"

  4. Wow, way to go here Ester!! Hokusai is quite possibly my favorite, and it wasn't until last year when they had a huge exhibit out this way did I realize the true depth and scope of his work. And to think the Mt Fuji series was done so late in his life!


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