If there’s one Japanese artist just about everyone is familiar with, it’s Hokusai. Even if they don’t know the late Edo-period painter by name, his landscape series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji is instantly recognizable, with The Great Wave off Kanagawa and South Wind, Clear Sky, better known as Red Fuji, perhaps the most famous works in all of Japanese painting.
Hokusai passed away in 1849, meaning he never got the chance to work in the mediums of motion pictures. Had he been born a bit later though, and had the desire to move into animation, perhaps the result would have looked a little something like this video.
Expressive and detailed as Hokusai’s artwork may be, it actually makes for a rather suitable jumping-off point for animation. Hokusai’s most famous pieces are his woodblock prints, and the construction of the blocks means that his art has clearly defined linework, unlike, say, the oil paintings of his European counterparts. As such, talented U.K. animator Tony White was able to use the body of work left behind by Hokusai as a design template from which to create this gorgeous animation reel accompanied by a voice-over description of the Japanese master.
At the one-minute mark, we’re treated to the inevitable aftermath of the towering Great Wave off Kanagawa.
From there, the video visits several of the locations of the Thirty-six Views of Mout Fuji.
▼ Two boatmen preparing their craft in Ushibori
▼ Other vessels already bobbing on the water near the Ryogokubashi Bridge in Edo
▼ A man walking with livestock through Inume Pass
▼ And of course, Red Fuji, with its wispy clouds drifting by
White’s salute to Hokusai isn’t limited to his best-known works, or even those in color, as the video also animates some of the Japanese artist’s monochrome creations, including his self-portrait.
Hokusai is said to have passed away at the age of 88, a remarkable display of longevity for the era in which he lived. Nevertheless, so strong was his zest for life that even that wasn’t enough, as the video quotes him as saying, in his later years, “If heaven will grant me just five more years, then, I will become a real painter.” But as this reverent animation project shows, even if Hokusai didn’t have all the time he wanted, he still had more than enough to leave an impression on the art world that will last for centuries.