Mad about Painting

By Katsushika Hokusai. Introduction by Ryoko Matsuba

Mad about Painting collects beautiful new translations of Hokusai’s painting tutorials and related essays written by the artist and his peers—a selection made available in English for the first time.

Best known for his iconic print Under the Wave off Kanagawa, also known as the Great Wave, Katsushika Hokusai was a revolutionary printmaker. His mastery of ukiyo-e in the nineteenth century has inspired generations of artists since, and his works helped introduce the world to the delicate beauty and power of the Japanese woodblock technique. In addition to his remarkable artistic output, Hokusai was also a dedicated teacher who sought to pass down his unique understanding of color and painting to practicing artists through immensely detailed written tutorials and manuals, many of which are excerpted here, in English, for the first time.  

Connecting Hokusai’s prints from the Edo period to contemporary Japanese art, the scholar Ryoko Matsuba’s introduction foregrounds Hokusai’s contributions to Japanese creative expression from the 1800s to today. Also included in this book is the contemporary artist Ikeda Manabu’s concise observations about Hokusai’s lasting influence. This volume offers invaluable insight into the psyche of a true master, and a rare personal account of an artist’s life during a fascinating period in Japan’s history.


Publisher: David Zwirner Books

Artists: ekphrasis

Contributors: Katsushika Hokusai, Ryoko Matsuba

Designer: Mike Dyer

Printer: VerornaLibri, Verona

Publication Date: 2023

Binding: Softcover

Dimensions: 4.25 × 7 in | 10.8 × 17.8 cm

Pages: 168

Reproductions: 20 illustrations

ISBN: 9781644230879

Retail: $15 | $20 CAN | £10.95

Status: Available


Dedicated to publishing rare, out-of-print, and newly commissioned texts as accessible paperback volumes the ekphrasis series is part of David Zwirner Books’s ongoing effort to publish new and surprising pieces of writing on visual culture.

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Katsushika Hokusai

Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) was born in Edo (present-day Tokyo), Japan, and was known by at least thirty names during his lifetime. In 1798, he declared his artistic independence and officially adopted the name Hokusai. From that point until his death, he worked in three distinct formats: single-sheet prints, book illustrations, and multicolor paintings. Around 1831, when he was in his early seventies, he produced his most celebrated print series, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, which includes the Great Wave, the painting for which he is best known. Numerous impressions of these works are in public and private collections outside of Japan, and Hokusai’s rich artistic legacy continues to draw attention and admiration around the world.

Ryoko Matsuba

Ryoko Matsuba is a specialist in Edo period print culture. She is currently a lecturer in Japanese digital arts and humanities at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, University of East Anglia. She was a curatorial contributor to two major exhibitions at the British Museum: Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave (2017) and The Citi Exhibition: Manga (2019), for which she coauthored the exhibition catalogue.