“From the age of five I have had a mania for sketching the forms of things. From about the age of fifty I produced a number of designs, yet of all I drew prior to the age of seventy-three there is truly nothing of great note. At the age of seventy-two I finally apprehended something of the true quality of birds, animals, insects, fish and of the vital nature of grasses and trees. Therefore at eighty I shall have made progress, at ninety I shall have penetrated even further the deeper meaning of things, at one hundred I shall have become truly marvellous, and at one hundred and ten, each dot, each line shall truly possess a life of its own. I only beg that gentlemen of sufficiently long life take care to note the truth of my words”.
Hokusai, Aged 72
The Hokusai exhibition at the Oriental Museum in Durham is on at the same time as Hockney’s retrospective (See Hockney’s Retrospective) He’s best known, of course, for ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ (shown below), which has been reproduced so often in our newspapers following the tsunami of last March. But the fascination of the exhibition is how, just like Hockney, who is now 74, this great artist continually developed and reinvented his art. Hokusai didn’t reach the venerable age referred to in the quotation above (he died aged 89) but he didn’t let old age diminish his talent or inventiveness.
In an earlier posting (See Max, aged 5, catches a fish and eats it raw) I warned of the dangers of eating live octopus, as the tentacles can attach themselves to the inside of your mouth. In this drawing, from the Hokusai Shunga (or Spring Pictures) collection an octopus is seen enjoying an altogether different feast.