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Born in 1760, in Edo (which is now known as modern day Tokyo), to a family of artisans his father was believed to be Nakajima Ise, who designed mirrors for the Shogun, the imperial ruler at the time. Hokusai began painting at an early age of six by observing his father whose work on the mirrors included painting designs on the frames.
Aged 12, Hokusai began working: after a short apprenticeship with a wood carver, he was accepted into the studio of Katsukawa Shunsho, mastering the art of ukiyo-e, a style of woodblock prints and paintings depicting courtesans and Kabuki actors who were popular in Japan at the time.
After publishing his own works, Katsushika Hokusai left the workshop in 1785, as he refused to change his style. He began travelling around Japan, becoming an evasive figure as he lived in 90 different places, under 30 different names while working on perfecting his art. At times, Hokusai's career struggled due to the poor economic situation and government censorship.
The Japanese master painted various subject matters like scenes of erotic dreams and fighting samurais, but he was mainly influenced by landscapes. Hokusai is most famous for his woodcuts of Mount Fuji and The Great Wave of Kanagawa, which depicts a gigantic tsunami threatening the boats near the peaceful prefecture of Kanagawa.
Hokusais popularity declined towards the end of his life, when a fire tragically destroyed his studio in 1839, along with much of his work. This wasnt helped by the fashion for younger artists such as Andō Hiroshige. Hokusai never stopped painting until his death on May 10 1849 at the age of 87.