Dating Hokusai's prints of the 1830s

Most Hokusai prints of the 1830s are undated, but seven features help establish dates: publisher’s advertisements, signatures and seals, censorship marks, color, contemporary copies, an artist’s statement, and dated events.

Publisher’s advertisements

Nishimuraya Yohachi, or Eijudô, began publishing Hokusai’s prints during the 1780s. During the 1830s, the firm published 36 Views of Mt. Fuji, the Waterfalls, the Bridges, the large and small Birds, Snow Moon and Flowers, and the first ten subjects in the 100 Poets set.  Nishimura also published dated novels that often included advertisements for other books and sets of prints. Jûzô Suzuki surveyed the fiction that Nishimura published between the 1820s through 1835 when the firm abruptly went out of business. He found advertisements for print sets in books dated 1823. 1825 and 1831-5.

1825    Shimpan daidô zui

1831    36 Views of Mt. Fuji

1832    36 Views of Mt. Fuji

1833    36 Views of Mt. Fuji, Waterfalls

1834    36 Views of Mt. Fuji, Waterfalls, Bridges, Small Birds

1835    36 Views of Mt. Fuji, Waterfalls, Bridges, Small Birds, 100 Poets

These advertisements announced new publications, works in progress, and recent publications that were still available for purchase. New fiction generally went on sale at the New Year, so some prints from a set advertised in the first month of one year may actually have gone on sale sometime during the previous year. But I have assumed, heuristically, that the first advertisement of the set coincides with its first appearance, if there is no contrary evidence.

In 5/1825 Nishimuraya also advertised six Hokusai prints, books, and albums at the end of a pattern book of designs for combs and pipes (Imayô sekkin hinagata), including Eight Forms of Mt. Fuji (Fugaku hattai) and two single-sheet prints, 100 Bridges (Hyakkyô ichiran) and 100 Rooms (Ichiran hyaku gûshitsu). Of these, only 100 Bridges is known today, but Nishimura may have included the Eight Forms of Fuji in 36 Views of Mt. Fuji in 1832 (see below). 

Iseya Sanjirô took over the publication of the 100 Poems when Nishimuraya went out of business, and advertised the set in 1836(?) in a reprint of a Hokusai pattern book.

Signatures and seals

In 1820, Hokusai changed his name from Taito to Iitsu. In 1824 he started to sign prints as ‘Iitsu, formerly Hokusai’ (Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu), and this is how he signed most of his prints until 3/1834 when he adopted a new name, Manji, that he used for the rest of his professional career. 

He used the signature ‘Formerly Hokusai’ (Zen Hokusai hitsu) on three chûban sets. A group of ten aizuri subjects was certainly published by Moriya Jihei in 1831 because the seal on one print says that Hokusai was in his seventy-second year. Moriya published a second aizuri group of comical toba-e subjects with the same signature, probably the same year. Tsuruya Kiemon published the third set, the Ghosts, probably in 1832 since it lacks the kiwame seal of government censorship (see below). Note that Hokusai signed the 100 Poems prints of 1835-6“Manji, formerly Hokusai’ (Zen Hokusai Manji).  The character Manji is printed in red on early subjects and is sometimes omitted, leaving ‘Zen Hokusai’ without the character for ‘brush’ (hitsu).

Between 1/1823 and 1/1825 Hokusai signed several surimono ‘Hokusai changing his name to Iitsu’ (Hokusai aratame Iitsu hitsu). This signature also appears on a group of ten prints from 36 Views of Mt. Fuji, including the Great Wave, Fuji over the storm and Fuji in Clear Weather.  It is quite possible that Hokusai drew these pictures in 1825 for Eight Forms of Mt. Fuji (Fugaku hattai), a set that was advertised in a Nishimuraya book in 5/1825, but never published (see above).

Hokusai announced his last name change from ‘Iitsu’ to ‘Manji, the Old Man Mad about Pictures’ (Gakyôrôjin Manji hitsu) in the colophon of the first volume of 100 Views of Mt. Fuji (Fugaku hyakkei) that Nishimuraya and others published in 3/1834. Prints signed Manji were drawn and published after this date. 

Censorship marks

Most prints published commercially during the 1830s bear their publisher’s emblem or seal and the circular kiwame seal of government censorship. Fan prints often bore a third seal indicating the animal year in which the print was published. Forty-four Hokusai prints, however, do not have kiwame seals, and many do not even have publishers’ marks:

Nishimuraya Yohachi. 36 Views of Mt. Fuji (22 early, 3 late subjects). No censor’s seal, no publisher’s mark.

Moriya Jihei.  Eight Views of the Ryûkyû Islands (8 subjects), True Mirror of Verse (one subject). No censor’s seal, but with publishers’ marks.

Unidentified publisher (probably Moriya). Four untitled prints in nagaban format. No censor’s seal, no publisher’s mark.

Tsuryua Kiemon. 100 Ghost Stories. No censor’s seal, but with publisher’s name.

Print censorship between 1791 and 1842 was sometimes strict and sometimes lax. Many prints of actors and courtesans published commercially during the 1790s, for example, bore the kiwame seal, but many others issued by the same publishers did not.  Between 1831 and 1836 1830sMany of the prints, perhaps most of them, were published in 1832, and An Okinawan delegation visited Edo in 11/1832. It was the first such visit in many years, and Moriya Jihei probably published Eight Views of the Ryûkyû Islands during their visit. (Okinawa is another name for the Ryûkyû Islands.)

The first important fact is that Hokusai designed no single-sheet prints during the late 1820s. There were several reasons for this. He suffered a debilitating stroke in 1827 and took time to convalesce. His second wife, Koto, died in the summer of 1828.  His grandson, who apparently lived with him, became a burden. He fell in with bad company and Hokusai had to pay his debts in the spring of 1829. At the beginning of 1830, he sent the young man back to his father and moved to a room at a temple by himself.  He wrote a letter to Hanabusa Heikichi, a publisher, in the middle of the first month of 1830 saying he was ‘penniless and naked with barely enough food to eat.’ He did not openly ask for help, but he was ready to work and began accepting commissions from print and book publishers.  

His first print was a large surimono, a picture of a female dancer with pails of salt water, for a retirement performance in 3/1830.  Later in the year he began designing prints for Moriya Jihei (Kinshindô) and Nishimuraya Yohachi (Eijudô).  

Moriya asked the artist to design ten half-block prints on five ôban sheets colored with light shades of Prussian blue. He signed them ‘Drawn by the former Hokusai’ (Zen Hokusai hitsu). They were published in 1831, because seals on two of them say that the artist was ‘an old man in his seventy-second year’.  Moriya published a second set of half-block prints in light shades of Prussian blue: humorous drawings known as toba-e of people with elongated limbs. There were probably ten prints in the set printed on five ôban sheets, although only nine are known. The artist signed the toba-e set and a sheet of three narrow panel prints ‘Drawn by the former Hokusai’ (Zen Hokusai ga). Moriya probably published both of these undated groups in 1831 since they are so close to the dated set in signature, format, color, subject, and style.

At the New Year of 1831, Nishimuraya Yohachi published a short novel by Ryûtei Tanehiko titled Made in Masaki (Masaki sei).  At the end of the book he described a new set of prints:

'Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji by Iitsu, formerly Hokusai, single-sheet blue prints, a serial publication with one view on each sheet. These pictures will show how the form of Mt. Fuji varies from place to place, for example as seen from Shichirigahama or Tsukuda Island, all different and particularly helpful to those studying landscape. In this way, one block following another, the set will not be limited to thirty-six prints, but might even reach one hundred.'

Did Nishimura put the first Fuji views of sale at the beginning of 1831, or had they already started to appear at the end of 1830? There is no way to know for certain.  He does not call the set a ‘new publication’ (shimpan), as he announced the 100 Poems set in 1/1835, but the language of the announcement makes the publication sound like a new and exciting event. Nishimura’s project was large and ambitious, and I am inclined to think that he waited for the New Year, a time when people had cast off the old and were putting on the new, to introduce these startling, innovative prints. 

 Nishimura published the 36 Views of Fuji in groups, mostly of five it would seem, over a period of at least two years. The first five prints in the set, including the two he named, were printed entirely in shades of blue, as the announcement says.  The next group of five were printed in blue with one extra color block (light pink in Asakusa Honganji, grey in Tôtomi, black in Mishima Pass). The ten were designed as a single group. Early impressions of each print have two red seals: the circular kiwame of government censorship over a square reading Eijudô, the shop name of the publisher. They are all signed ‘Drawn by Iitsu, formerly Hokusai’ (Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu), and Hokusai wrote the character for hitsu (or ‘brush’, meaning ‘drawn with a brush’) on every print in a distinctive and unusual shape: the last vertical stroke turns to the right and then lifts up again. He did not use this wag-tailed hitsu after his signature on any other Fuji prints. Indeed, the only other time Hokusai wrote this form of hitsu in the 1830s was on five more prints that were probably published in 1831, the Ghost set.

Nishimura probably published the next group of ten Fuji prints in the second half of 1831. The strange and unusual signature on nine of these prints (he left out one wordon Tama River), says that the artist formerly known as Hokusai has changed his name to Iitsu (Zen Hokusai aratame Iitsu hitsu). This is exactly how Hokusai signed three fan prints published in the summer of 1831. It is strange because Hokusai had already changed his name to Iitsu in 1820. Why should he repeat the announcement eleven years later? To inform a new audience, perhaps. The artist designed hundreds of prints in the 1800s and early 1810s. He signed all of them Hokusai. Then he gave the name Hokusai to a pupil. He took new names, first Taito, then Iitsu, and stopped designing prints for commercial publishers. He announced the name changes on privately published prints, but only a few people saw them because surimono were not sold publicly, so it is no wonder that some people may have felt understandably confused when they saw the first Fuji prints. (There is no evidence that the thirteen prints signed Zen Hokusai aratame Iitsu hitsu were designed in the 1820s. Between 1823 and 1825 Hokusai signed some surimono Hokusai aratame Iitsu hitsu and others Zen Hokusai ga, but he did not combine the signature types.)

More than their signatures distinguish the first ten Fuji views from the second ten.

The first were printed in blue, or mostly blue. The second were printed with many colors. The first had censor’s seals and publisher’s marks. The second entirely lack them. It is clear that the government was inconsistent in its inspection or requirements for censorship in 1831.  Nishimura probably published the ten prints with the name change (‘aratame’) signatures in two groups. One includes massive designs with simple colors: the Great Wave, Red Fuji, Fuji above the Storm, Mannen Bridge, Tama River.  The other includes more complicated designs colored with yellow, green and blue, a warm-cool contrast that Hokusai developed further in the Waterfalls series and later prints in the Fuji set.

(Hokusai designed a third group of prints with the name change signature: slight views of Edo printed in shades of blue on small folding envelopes. The set was called ‘100 Views of the Eastern Capital’ (Tôto hyakkei); nine subjects are known. It was probably published in the second half of 1831 as well.)

Signatures establish that the Great Wave and Red Fuji followed soon after the ten blue prints in the Fuji set, although the prints seem a world apart in scale, mood, and conception. The bridge between them may be the artist’s five shocking ghost prints that Tsuruya Kiemon published, probably in the summer of 1831.

One Hokusai signature is difficult to explain.  The artist changed his name from Taito to Iitsu in 1820 and from Taito to Iitsu in 1820. He announced these changes on surimono published in those years. Artist and performers usually announced name changes once, but Hokusai produced a new signature on surimono published between 1823 and 1825, stating that he was changing his name from Hokusai to Iitsu. He signed other surimono during this period as ‘the former Hokusai’ (Zen, or saki no’, Hokusai).

Hokusai did this once before.  He used the name Sôri between 1796 and 1798, then gave it (actually returned it) to a pupil and changed his name to Hokusai. In mid-1798 and 1799 he signed his prints ‘Sôri changing his name to Hokusai’ (Sôri aratame Hokusai ga). Then in 1800 he signed prints ‘Hokusai, formerly Sôri’ (Saki no Sôri Hokusai ga).

The name Iitsu had a personal meaning of renewal and a new beginning for Hokusai. He had finished his first cycle of sixty years at the end of 1819, and was starting over in his sixty-first year, as a person who was ‘one again’. Iitsu was a peculiar and unorthodox name for an artist. Most people had no way of knowning why Hokusai had changed his name or even that he had changed his name. And whatever name he chose to work under, the artist was widely known, indeed he was famous, as Hokusai and this no doubt why he signed prints Formerly Hokusai’ and ‘Hokusai changing his name to Iitsu’ in 1823 after signing all of his prints in 1821 and 1822 ‘Iitsu’. 

In the late 1820s Hokusai suffered several personal setbacks and produced bery few prints, illustrations, or paintings.  He suffered a stroke in 1827. His second wife died in 1828. His ne’er-do-well grandson who apparently lived with him fell in with bad company and in 1829 Hokusai had to pay his debts.  At the beginning of 1830 he finally reached his limit. He sent the young man to live with his father, and rented a room for himself in a temple in Asakusa.  In the middle of the first month of 1830 he wrote to a publisher that he was ‘penniless and naked with barely enough to eat.’ But now, with health restored and grandson gave he was eager to work again. Soon, a publisher named Tôkaneya commissioned him to design a large surimono for a retirement performance. This was published in 3/1830 and Hokusai once again reminded people who he was by reviving the signature ‘Hokusai changing to Iitsu’ (Hokusai aratame Iitsu) again.

Hokusai also used this unusual signature on two fan prints with seal dates published in the summer of 1831; they have official seal dates. It also appears on ten prints from 36 Views of Mt. Fuji, including three masterpieces: The Great Wave, Fuji in Clear Weather, and Fuji Above the Storm. When were these prints published? Between 1823 and 1825? In 1830? Or in the middle of 1831, along with the fan prints?

It has to be the second half of 1831. Why? Because the views with the ‘name change’ signature were the second group of ten printsin the Fuji set. The first ten were printed in shades of blue, a technique called aizuri. All ten had a distinctive upturned form of the character for ‘brush’ (hitsu) in their signatures The publisher’s advertised 36 Views of Mt. Fuji in the spring of 1831. The prints in the set were aizuri, he wrote, and he specifically named two of the first ten prints. The prints with the name change signature are not aizuri. They are printed with a variety of colors. If they had been printed in 1830 or earlier, the publisher could not have described the 36 Views as ‘blue’ prints.

The Chronology of Hokusai’s Single Sheet Prints in the 1830s

Signatures

Hokusai used the signature Iitsu between 1820 and the first two months of 1834. He announced a name change from Hokusai to Iitsu on a surimono in 3/1830 and on twenty prints published commercially in the middle of 1831. He changed his name from Iitsu to Manji in 3/1834.

Hokusai changed the way he wrote ‘Iitsu’ three times in the 1830s. The three forms overlapped between the summer of 1831 and the spring of 1832. He used the full form of the character ‘I’ in ‘Iitsu’ on prints published through the summer of 1832.  He used a semi-abbreviated form of ‘I’ in the spring of 1832, and a one stroke cursive form of ‘I’ on prints published in the summer of 1831 and between the spring of 1832 and the spring of 1834. 

Government inspection

Most of Hokusai’s commercially published prints in the 1830s bore the marks or names of their publishers and a printed form of the circular kiwame seal indicating that a government official had inspected the print for political content and approved its publication. However, many prints that appear to have been published in the second half of 1831 and the second half of 1832, and fan prints published in the summer of 1834, lack either or both of these marks. Since the government did not change its policy on censorship in the 1830s, one explanation is that the inspection office was closed during certain periods, like the weighing stations for trucks on American highways. This may, in fact, have been customary since many other prints published commercially between the 1790s and the early 1840s also lack kiwame seals. 

In the early 1830s, officials of the shogun’s government inspected drawings for single sheet prints for political content and stamped those they approved with a circular seal containing one word, kiwame, in archaic script. They required publishers to cut this seal on their blocks and to identify themselves on their prints, usually with a distinctive emblem or with one of the firm’s names written on a square seal.  Publishers submitted drawings for inspection a month or two before they wished the print to appear. This allowed time for the inspectors to examine and return the drawing, and for a block cutter to carve the kiwame seal and publisher’s marks on the key block before the edition was printed. 

Publishers sometimes used duplicate drawings to expedite the inspection and publication process. They might send one drawing to the blockcutter and a duplicate to the inspection office. The carvers could thus produce a complete set of blocks and the printers could even print an edition while the drawing was still under inspection. During the early 1830s, Nishimura’s cutters often carved the kiwame and publisher’s seals on a separate color block which was ready to print when the drawing was returned. Moriya Jihei used a different system to expedite publication. His cutters sometimes left an uncut area on the keyblock next to the signature to add the publishere’s mark and reproduce the inspector’s seal. A prrof impression of the outline block for a print of travellers crossing a frozen lake shows this uncut area. Either the inspection office was closed, or the inspector approved the publication without marks, because this area was completely removed and the final color prints have neither a publisher’s mark nor a kiwame seal.

In 1831 and 1832, the government inspection office seems to have been open only part of the time, perhaps from the eleventh month through the fifth month, to inspect prints published during the first half of the year. Publishers seem to have included the kiwame seal and their name or an identifying mark on prints published between the first and sixth months of the year. They omitted the kiwame seal and sometimes omitted any identifying mark on prints published in the second half of the year.

1830

Tôkaneya

3rd month Matsukaze with brine pails.  Hokusasi aratame Iitsu hitsu.

Large surimono for a retirement performance.

1831

Hokusai used three signatures in 1831:

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu with the last stroke of the character hitsu curving up on the end on the first ten prints, all aizuri, in the 36 Views of Mt. Fuji published by Nishimuraya Yohachi (Eijudô).

Zen Hokusai hitsu (or ga) on prints published by Moriya Jihei and Tsuruya Kiemon.

Hokusai aratame Iitsu hitsu on three fan prints published in the summer, on the second ten prints in 36 Views of Mt. Fuji, and on a group of nine aizuri landscapes on small envelopes published by Tôkaneya.

The first ten Fuji prints must have been published in the spring of 1831 because Nishimura included a detailed advertisement of the set at the end of Made in Masaki (Masaki sei), a novel by Ryûtei Tanehiko published in 1/1831.  Single-sheet aizuri landscapes, he writes, will be printed one after another and offered for sale individually. The set will not stop after thirty-six subjects have appeared, but will continue, perhaps, to one hundred. He also mentions two of the first ten prints by name.

Spring     Nishimuraya Yohachi

Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji (Fugaku sanjûrokkei). 

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, red kiwame and square Eijudô seals. Full form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature, vertical stroke of hitsu curves up at end.

1. Five ôban prints in shades of blue (aizuri):

Tsukuda, Shichirigahama, Kajikazawa, Ushibori, Suwa

2. Five ôban prints in blue with one additional color block:

Asakusa, Umezawa, Mishima, Totomi, Ejiri

Moriya Jihei

Untitled series. Zen Hokusai hitsu, kiwame, publisher’s emblem.

Ten chûban prints in blue (aizuri)

Untitled series.  Zen Hokusai ga, kiwame, publisher’s emblem.

Ten chûban prints of long-limbed people (toba-e) in blue (aizuri)

Untitled series.  Zen Hokusai ga, kiwame, publisher’s emblem.

Three tanzaku prints

Summer Unidentified publisher

Untitled fan prints

Zen Hokusai aratame Iitsu hitsu, kiwame, date seal (‘hare’), 

publisher’s mark.

Three prints:

Two carp, two ducks, fish (undated, printed in blue)

Two signatures with full form of ‘Iitsu’ (ducks, fish), one with cursive ‘Iitsu’ (carp)

Tsuruya Kiemon

One Hundred Ghost Stories (Hyaku monogatari). 

Zen Hokusai hitsu, name of publisher (Tsuruki), no kiwame seal,

 final stroke of hitsu curves up at end

Five chûban prints of supernatural subjects, one with a printed inscription mentioning Tenpô, the recently changed name of the year period that began in 12/1830. The signature and inscription make 1831 likely, but the saturated colors suggest a date as 1834 when Nishimura used dark Prussian blue backgrounds for the Small Birds set.

Tôkaneya

One Hundred Views of the Eastern Capital (Tôto hyakkei)

Hokusai aratame Iitsu hitsu, publisher’s emblem, no kiwame;

cursive form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature

Nine small envelopes printed in blue (aizuri)

Autumn Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji (Fugaku sanjûrokkei)

Hokusai aratame Iitsu hitsu, no Kiwame or Eijudô seals; full form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature.

1. Five ôban prints with bold designs in full color:

Kanagawa, Fuji in Clear Weather, Fuji over a Storm, Mannen Bridge, and Tama River (aratame omitted from signature)

2. Five ôban prints colored with yellow, green, and blue: 

Surugadai, Aoyama, Senju, Inume Pass, Fujimigahara

1832

Hokusai wrote an autobiographical note about his life that Nishimura included on the last page of the first volume of 100 Views of Mt. Fuji in 1834. He writes he started drawing in his sixth year, but did not produce anything worthwhile until his seventieth year. In 1832, he ‘finally understood to some extent, the nature of plants and trees and the forms of birds, animals, insects, and fish.’ He can only be referring to the ten ôban prints of flowering plants with birds and insects that Nishimura published, the studies in nagaban format of carp, turtles, horses, cranes and a falcon that Moriya published. He also included some vibrant nature studies in the 5 volume book of Tang poetry, Tôshisen ehon that Suharaya (Kobayashi Shimbei) published in 1/1833. Hokusai is so specific about his age that he must have designed these prints and book illustrations in 1832.

Hokusai signed the Flowers with the full form of ‘Iitsu’ so they were published in the first half of the year. He signed the nagaban with the cursive form of ‘Iitsu’. The pictures of carp, turtles and horses lack the publisher’s mark and kiwame seal. Moriya must have published them in the second half of 1832. (The pictures of carp and falcon have the publisher’s mark and inspection seal. Moriya probably published them in the spring of 1833.)

An official delegation from Okinawa visited Edo in 11/1832. Moriya published Eight Views of Okinawa (Ryûkyû hakkei), ôban prints lacking inspection seals, to coincide with the event. Hokusai used the full form of ‘Iitsu’ in his signatures because they were written with large characters to match the titles ofthe prints.  

Nishimura briefly mentions the Waterall set (Shokoku taki meguri) in an advertisement sheet at the end of a book published in 1/1833.  Hokusai signed four Waterfall prints with the full form of Iitsu and four with a semi-abbreviated transitional form of the character ‘I’. Nishimura probably published these prints in the second quarter of 1832, before Hokusai began to use the cursive form of Iitsu.  Nishimura probably followed the Waterfalls with five more prints from the Fuji series. These prints have a cursive signature, kiwame and publisher’s seals.

Nishimura published eleven more Fuji prints with blue outlines in 1832. These have blue outlines, like the first thirty, but lack publisher’s and inspection seals and were probably published in the third quarter of the year.  Kawaji, an Osaka publisher active from 1830-1832, published a set of miniature copies by Hokumyô of the first 36 prints in the Fuji set, presumably at the end of 1832. 

Nishimura apparently published twenty Fuji prints in 1831 and twenty in 1832. The last four have black outlines, and lack inspection and publisher’s seals. These began ‘a new publication of thirty-six prints’ (shimpan sanjûrokumai tsuzuki) that Nishimura announced on the picture of the lumberyard at Tatekawa. (Nishimura published the six remaining prints with black outline, inspection and publisher’s seals in the spring of 1833.)  

Moriya probably published the second group of prints in tanzaku format with the cursive form of ‘Iitsu’ in the middle of 1832.

Spring       Nishimuraya Yohachi

Untitled ôban series of flowering plants. 

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, kiwame and square Eijudô seals. Full form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature. 

1. Five detailed designs with light yellow backgrounds:

Bellflower and dragonfly, morning glories and frog, iris and grasshopper, peonies and butterfly, chrysanthemums and fly

2. Five bold designs with blue or dark yellow backgrounds:

Hibiscus and sparrow, orange orchids, poppies, hydrangea and swallow, lilies

A Tour of Waterfalls (Shokoku taki meguri). 

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, kiwame and square Eijudô seals. Full and abbreviated forms of ‘Iitsu’ in signatures.

Eight ôban prints colored with yellow, green and blue

1. Full ‘Iitsu’: Kirifuri, Aoigaoka, Yôrô, Sakanoshita

2. Abbreviated ‘Iitsu’: Yoshino, Rôben, Amida, Ono

Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji (Fugaku sanjûrokkei). 

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, kiwame and square Eijudô seals; cursive form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature.

Five ôban, colored in yellow, green and blue: Onmayagashi, Sazaidô, Koishikawa, Shimo Meguro, Enoshima

Moriya Jihei

Untitled series in tanzaku format

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, kiwame seal and publisher’s mark; cursive form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature. Some examples have kiwame seal removed from later impressions.

Seventeen subjects, at least four printed in blue (aizuri). 

Unknown publisher

A View of Shiogama and Matsushima (Ôshû Shiogama Matsushima no ryakuzu).  

Zen Hokusai Iitsu, no kiwame or publisher’s mark. Full form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature. A large bird’s-eye view printed in pink, green, and Prussian blue.

Summer   Unidentified publisher

Untitled fan print. 

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, kiwame, date seal (‘dragon’) and publisher’s mark. Full form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature.

Fall   Nishimuraya Yohachi

Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji (Fugaku sanjûrokkei). 

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, no kiwame or square Eijudô seals; transitional and cursive forms of ‘Iitsu’ in signature.

Eleven ôban with blue outline, mostly colored in yellow, green and blue: Kazusa, Noborito, Onden, Yoshida, Suruga-chô, Tago, Misaka, Hakone, Hodogaya, Sekiya, Nihonbashi

Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji (Fugaku sanjûrokkei). 

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, no kiwame or square Eijudô seals; cursive form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature.

Four ôban with black outline, one announcing a ‘new publication’ (shimpan): Tatekawa, Senju hanamachi, Minobugawa, Katakura

Moriya Jihei

Untitled series in large vertical format (nagaban).

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, no kiwame seals or publisher’s marks; cursive form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature.

1. Three nature subjects (carp, turtles, horses)

2. Crossing Lake Suwa on Ice (Shinshû Suwa kosui hyôto)

Unfinished keyblock proof has an uncarved area beside the signature for the publisher’s emblem and kiwame seals; this was area was removed before the print was published.

The True Mirror of Poetry (Shika shashin kyô)

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, no kiwame seal or publisher’s mark; cursive form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature. Nagaban format.

Ariwara no Narihira.  The earliest impressions have a hand-stamped publisher’s seal reading Kinshindô. The publisher’s emblem was added to the key block later. The remaining nine prints in the set were probably published in 1833.

11th month Eight Views of the Ryûkyû Islands (Ryûkyû hakkei)

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, publisher’s emblem, but no kiwame seal; full form of ‘Iitsu’ in large signature in title cartouche. Late impressions of some subjects have additional mark of Nishimuraya Yohachi.

Eight ôban

1833

As described above, Nishimura probably published the last six prints in the Fuji series in the spring of 1833, and followed them with Snow, Moon, and Flowers. Moriya Jihei probably published two sets of prints in 1833. The True Mirror of Poetry (Shika shashin kyô) illustrates poems by five ancient Japanese poets and four Chinese poets of the Tang Dynasty. Hokusai probably conceived of the set in 1832 while he illustrated Tang poems for the five volume book Tôshisen ehon gogon ritsu that Kobayashi Shimbei published in 1/1833.  The Ocean of Pictures (Chie no umi) is a series of ten small landscapes with different forms of water. They were printed on five ôban sheets. Hokusai adapted the designs from a series of detailed earlier drawings that he probably meant to publish as black and white book illustrations.  

Kobayashi Shimbei

1st month Child inscribing a screen. Zen Hokusai Iitsu rôjin ga (transitional form of ‘Iitsu’. Wrapper for Tôshisen ehon gogon ritsu, a collection of Chinese verse of the Tang Dynasty.

Unknown publisher

1st month Treasure ship.  Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu with cursive form of ‘Iitsu’.

Surimono.

1st month A Distant View of Koshigoe from Shichirigahama. 

(Shichirigahama yori Koshigoe o chôbô)

Rô Iitsu shai. Square surimono.  Verses about Enoshima by Kajuan Fukumaro and Shûchôdô, using a signature he adopted in 1831.

Spring Nishimuraya Yohachi

Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji (Fugaku sanjûrokkei). 

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, kiwame and square Eijudô seals; cursive form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature.

Six ôban with black keyblocks: Gotenyama, Nakahara, Izawa, Kanaya, Ono Shinden, Ascending Pilgrims

Snow, Moon, and Flowers (Setsugekka)

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, kiwame and square Eijudô seals; cursive form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature.

Three ôban: Sumida, Yodo River, Yoshino (lacking seals)

Moriya Jihei

Untitled series in large vertical format (nagaban).

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, kiwame seal and publisher’s marks; cursive form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature.

Two nature subjects (cranes, tethered falcon)

The True Mirror of Poetry (Shika shashin kyô)

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, kiwame seal and publisher’s mark; cursive form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature. 

Nine prints in nagaban format.

1. Chinese subjects: Li Bo, Bo Jui, Cui Guofu (titled ‘The Youth’s Journey), Du Fu (untitled), Sei Shônagon (who wrote a Japanese poem about a Chinese official, Meng Chang)

2. Japanese subjects: Abe no Nakamaro, Harumichi no Tsuraki, Tôri Daijin, ‘The Rush Gatherer’

A tenth print, Ariwara no Narihira, was probably published in 1832.

Ocean of Pictures (Chie no umi).

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, kiwame seal and publisher’s mark; cursive form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature.

Twelve chûban prints, two known from keyblock proofs. 

Summer Unidentified publisher

Untitled fan prints

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, kiwame and date seal (‘snake’), publisher’s emblem; cursive form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature.

1. Pekinese dog

2. Snake and pheasant. Undated, but an appropriate subject for a Snake Year.

Fall Views of Strange Bridges (Shokoku meikyô kiran)

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, cursive form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature, kiwame and square Eijudô seals on nine prints (all except Arashiyama and Fukui)

Ten ôban.

Probably 1833 or 1834

Nishimuraya Yohachi

Tsuruya Kiemon

Jôshûya Jûzô

A New Travel Game for the Road to Kamakura, Enoshima and Ôyama

(Kamakura Enoshima Ôyama shimpan ôrai sugoroku)

Zen Hokusai Iitsu zu, no kiwame seal; signature written in title cartouche with full form of ‘Iitsu’. A large joined sheet of landscape vignettes that may have been sold in a printed wrapper.

1834

Nishimura advertised the Bridges set and the Small Birds in 1/1834. Ten of the eleven Bridges were probably published in the second half of 1833, but the ‘brightly colored pictures of birds and flowers in a square format’ were probably published in the fist or second month of 1834. In 3/1834, Hokusai announced on the wrapper of the first volume of 100 Views of Mt. Fuji  that he was changing his name from Iitsu to Manji. I have dated Hokusai’s nine fans with no kiwame seals orpublisher’s marks to the summer of 1834 because one of them announces his change of name from Iitsu to Manji. (A Hokusai fan published in summer 1835 has a publisher’s mark and kiwame and date seals.)  I have not included here the wrapper for Ehon Kôkyô signed ‘Zen Hokusai Manji Rôjin ga’ depicting a boy with a tiger. The book is traditionally dated 1/1834, but was probably published in 1850.

Spring Nishimuraya Yohachi

Views of Strange Bridges (Shokoku meikyô kiran)

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, cursive form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature, kiwame and square Eijudô seal.

One additional print, probably the view of Mt. Tempô in Osaka, a man made hill created when the Yodo River was dredged in 1831.

Untitled series of birds and flowers

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, kiwame and square Eijudô seals; cursive form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature.

Ten chûban

Yamamotoya Heikichi

Untitled series of paired warriors

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, kiwame and publisher’s emblem; cursive form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature.

Five ôban with dark Prussian blue backgrounds

Akamatsuya Shôtarô

Fine Views with Snow Moon and Flowers (Shôkei setsugekka)

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, kiwame and publilsher’s emblem; cursive form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature.

Nine small landscape prints

Eight Views of Edo (Edo hakkei)

Zen Hokusai Iitsu ga, kiwame and square Eijudô seals; cursive form of ‘Iitsu’ in signature.

3rd month Nishimuraya Yohachi

Tethered falcon. Zen Hokusai Iitsu aratame Gakyôrôjin Manji hitsu, seal of Mt. Fuji over trigram for ‘lake’. Wrapper for 100 Views of Mt. Fuji (Fugaku hyakkei).

Summer Unknown publisher

Fan print of flying falcon.  Sôbô ryôkaku Zen Hokusai aratame Gakyôjin Manji, seal of Mt. Fuji over the trigram for ‘lake’.

Summer Unknown publisher

Strange Views of Famous Places (Shôkei kiran)

Zen Hokusai Manji hitsu, no kiwame, date seal or publisher’s mark.

Eight fan prints

1. Full color prints: Mt. Nokogiri, Sodegaura, Lake Suwa, Minobu River (also printed in blue without orange band), Mt. Myôgi (also printed in blue without orange band)

2. Aizuri with orange band at top: Mt. Haruna, Yumura, Suribari Pass

1835

Nishimura announced a ‘great new publication’ (dai shimpan) of the 100 Poems series in the first month of 1835.  After the firm published one group of five prints, the publication was taken over by Iseya Sanjirô who published 23 more prints, one known only from an impression of the keyblock.  

Unknown publisher

1st month Basket of mushrooms. Zen Hokusai Manji hitsu, seal of Mt. Fuji over the trigram for ‘lake’. Surimono.

Spring     Nishimuraya Yohachi

One Hundred Poems Explained by the Nurse (Hyakunin isshu uba ga etoki). Zen Hokusai Manji, kiwame and Eijudô seal (with characters meaning ‘Age Eternal’)

Five ôban with ‘Manji’ in red (Nos. 1, 2 , 3, 6, 9)

3rd month Feathered cloak.  Zen Hokusai aratame Gakyôrôjin Manji hitsu, seal of Mt. Fuji over trigram for ‘lake’. Wrapper for 100 Views of Mt. Fuji (Fugaku hyakkei), volume 2.

Summer Unidentified publisher

Untitled fan print. 

Zen Hokusai Iitsu hitsu, kiwame, date seal (‘goat’), and publisher’s mark.

Unknown publisher

Fisherman seated on a rock.  

Sui Manji jigasan (‘Verse and picture by drunken Manji’)

Square surimono.  A fictitious self-portrait designed and published by the artist to commemorate the completion of a large and important work, probably the three volume book 100 Views of Mt. Fuji (Fugaklu hyakkei).

1835-36

Iseya Sanjirô

One Hundred Poems Explained by the Nurse (Hyakunin isshu uba ga etoki). Zen Hokusai Manji, kiwame and Eijudô seal (with characters meaning ‘Flourishing Trees’)

Twenty-three ôban, probably published in four groups

1. Manji printed in red. Five subjects (4, 5, 7, 11, 17)

2. Manji printed in black. Seven subjects (12, 18, 20, 24, 37, 52, 71)

3. Manji printed in black. Six subjects (28, 32, 36, 39, 50, 68)

4. Manji printed in black. Five sujbects (19, 26, 30, 49, 97)

No. 30, Mibu no Tadamine, known only as a keyblock.

1836

1st month       Publisher unknown

Man carrying a branch decorated with poem slips. Gakyôrôjin Manji, age 77.  Surimono.

Hokusai’s Late Single-Sheet Prints

Nishimuraya Yohachi, Hokusai’s chief publisher in the early 1830s, published advertisements between 1831 and 1835 that establish the sequence of several of Hokusai’s important print sets. The 36 Views of Fuji was the first, followed by the Waterfalls, the Bridges, the Small Flowers, the 100 Poems. But Nishimura’s advertisements do not tell us anything about the groups in which Hokusai’s prints were published or precisely when he published them. He does not tell us how the sets may have overlapped, nor describe the sequence of prints with a given set. And of course, they do not even mention Hokusai work for other publishers .  

Several firms published over two hundred Hokusai single-sheet color prints between 1831 and 1836.  These include some masterpieces like the Great Wave and Fuji in Clear Weather, and most of his famous landscape prints. Signature changes, advertisements, patterns of government inspection, contemporary events, and a few dated prints, help establish the order in which Hokusai designed these prints. But some pieces of evidence contradict others, and they leave many discrepancies.

Fortunately, I have been able to resolve most of these discrepancies by using the visual evidence of unfaded, early impressions of the prints; for example, Hokusai’s choice of colors, his changing preference for certain palettes and certain technical effects.

This allowed me to create a reasonable chronological sequence of Hokusai work. It also showed me how his mind developed, how he grew as an artist, how he achieved so much, and what his work meant to him during this period.  Picasso once said, ‘I don’t seek, I find.’ Hokusai was another finder. What he found led him forward. His prints of the 1830s reconstruct the path he followed to find what mattered to him.

Nishimura announced the Fuji set in the spring of 1831, the Waterfalls in 1833, the Bridges and Small Birds in 1834, and the 100 Poems in 1835. We know that by these dates the prints were either on sale, about to go on sale, or were already available.

Hokusai changed his name from Iitsu to Manji in 3/1834. He announced the change on the printed wrapper for a book, the first volume of 100 Views of Mt. Fuji. So prints signed Iitsu were designed before 3/1834, and prints signed ‘Manji’ were designed and published afterwards.

Only 38 Hokusai prints of the 1830s were signed ‘Manji’.  The rest were signed ‘formerly Hokusai’ or ‘Iitsu’. This means that about Hokusai 180 prints were published in a three year period between the beginning of 1831 and the beginning of 1834.

These prints can be grouped by signature and by color. Both criteria are helpful in dating. The full form of the character pronounced ‘I’ in ‘Iitsu’ is written with twelve strokes. It can also be written cursively with one curling stroke.  Hokusai wrote the full form of ‘Iitsu’ with several strokes, on most prints in 1831 and the beginning of 1832, and the one stroke cursive form on most prints published between the middle of 1832 and the beginning of 1834.  I will mention exceptions to this general rule later, but the shape of the ‘I’ in ‘Iitsu’ is a good indication of a print’s date.

Hokusai usually produced drawings for sets in groups of four or five, and he often seems to have signed all the prints in each group at one sitting, just before he delivered them to his publisher.

There are two groups of five in the set of ten Large Flowers.  The prints in each group are drawn differently and have differently colored backgrounds.  Hokusai signed all five prints in one group with a characteristic vertical signature. On the other five prints he offset the first character, ‘Zen’ to the right and wrote it in a distinctive abbreviation that he does not seem to have used on any other prints.  Similarly, on the second group of four prints in the Waterfalls series he used another unusual form of ‘Zen’ that he only used one other time, on prints 31-36 from the Fuji set. He may have signed all ten prints at the same time.

Color often helps date prints even more closely.  Hokusai signed the first ten prints in the Fuji series with an unusual form for the last character ‘hitsu’ (or ‘brush’). The last stroke in this character is usually written vertically. One these prints Hokusai turns it to the right and hooks it upward again.

The earliest impressions of five prints in this group are printed entirely in shades of Prussian blue. The publisher actually names two of them in his first advertisement. Early impressions of the other five prints are predominantly blue, but they each have one additional color: pink in one case, gray in another, black in a third. The publisher advertised the set as prints in blue (aizuri). This tells us that Hokusai started out designing prints in blue, but soon began adding additional colors. It also tells us that by the beginning of 1831, Hokusai had not yet given Nishimura any drawings for the full color prints the make up the bulk of the set. 

Color also helps us date the next ten prints in the set. The signatures on these prints announce that the artist has changed his name from Hokusai to Iitsu (‘Hokusai aratame Iitsu hitsu’). I will discuss this unusual signature later and try to explain it. For now I will only say that Hokusai also used the signature on three fan prints published in the summer of 1831, two with specific printed seal dates.  This tells us that the first ten prints were designed, and presumably printed, in two groups in the first half of 1831, and that the second ten were probably drawn by the summer of 1831 and published in the second half of the year.

Color shows us that the ‘name change’ prints were also published in two groups of five, and that Hokusai’s interest in color continued to grow and change.  The first group included Tama River, printed mostly in shades of blue, but with two additional colors: a warm brown and a cool gray that blend together on a riverbank.  Fuji in Clear Weather combines Prussian blue with a warm brown and a cool green that also blend delicately on early impressions. Kanagawa, or the Great Wave, combines blue with light yellow, pink, and gray.  Prints in the second group contrast a cool blue with a harsh yellow or yellow green, a new color scheme.

Hokusai grew quite absorbed with the contrast between cool blue and warm yellows and greens, and he used this contrast in most of the landscape prints he designed in the middle of 1832, particularly the Waterfalls and the new Fuji prints. If 1831 was Hokusai’s blue period, 1832 was yellow/green. 

The ten ‘name change’ Fuji prints differ from the first ten ‘blue’ prints in one other important respect. Early impressions of the ‘blue’ prints all have a square publisher’s seal with another circular seal above it. This is the kiwame seal, certifying that the drawing for the print had been inspected by a government official for political content and approved for publication. Between 1790 and the early 1840, the government required publishers to submit drawings for prints to an inspector. They also required them to duplicate the inspection seal and to identify themselves by name or emblem on published prints.  However, none of the ‘name change’ Fuji prints ever has an inspection seal or a publisher’s mark. Politically, the ‘name change’ Fuji prints are quite innocuous. So are hundreds of other prints that were published without inspection seals during the 1790s and afterwards. Obviously, the inspection requirements or the inspection procedures changed periodically.

Many Hokusai prints in 1831, 1832, and 1834, and perhaps a few in 1833, lack seals; many others have them. More precisely, those without seals seem to have been published in the second half of 1831, the second half of 1832, and the summer of 1834; possibly the summer of 1833.  The government may have closed its inspection office during certain periods, like some of the official vehicle weighing stations on American highways. Sometimes inspectors may have approved a drawing without stamping the inspection seal on it. Published impressions of an upright Hokusai landscape of Lake Suwa, for example, lack any seals. But a proof impression of the keyblock has a blank uncut area beside the artist’s signature just large enough for the inspection seal and the publisher’s emblem, as though a blockcutter was waiting for the inspector’s approval before cutting them, but then discovered they were not needed.

Two other sources help date Hokusai’s prints of the early 1830s. One is a current event linked with a print set. Hokusai designed for the publisher Moriya Jihei a set of Eight Views of the Ryûkyû Islands, better known today as Okinawa. He had not visited Okinawa, of course. His prints are copies of small black-and-white Chinese-style illustrations from a book the government published in 1831. In the eleventh month of 1832, an official delegation of 200 Okinawans arrived in Edo to visit the shogun.  This was an uncommon event, and Moriya probably published Hokusai’s prints to mark, or at least to take advantage of, the occasion.  

Early impressions of the Ryûkyû prints are printed in light transparent colors. So are the last ten views of Fuji and the first six prints of Bridges. A few of these were probably published at the end of 1832, the rest at the beginning of 1833.

Hokusai wrote an autobiographical note that was published in 1834 at the end of 100 Views of Mt. Fuji.  He says that although he began drawing in his sixth year, and had achieved some fame by this fifties, that it was only in 1832, in his seventy-third year, that he finally began to understand the structure of birds, animals, insects, and fish, and the nature of plants and trees.  No Hokusai paintings or drawings of natural subjects are dated 1832, although he did draw some pictures of plants as end sheets for a five volume books of Chinese poems, Tôshisen ehon, that was published in 1/1833.

But Nishimura did publish ten extraordinarily varied and animated Hokusai prints of flowering plants with insects, small birds, and a frog in which the artist really did seem to have ‘understood their nature’.  By his own testimony, Hokusai must have designed these remarkable prints in 1832.  Nishimura probably published the Large Flowers in the spring, after the ‘name change’ Fuji prints. He used the full form of ‘Iitsu’ in his signature and light colors. He began to use an abbreviated form of ‘Iitsu’ on the first Waterfall prints, and colored them with stronger, more saturated pigments. Both sets have publisher’s and inspection seals.

The third group of sixteen Fuji prints was also published in 1832. Hokusai’s signature varies from transitional to cursive; the colors are mostly blue, yellow and green. The five prints with publisher’s and inspection seals were probably published in the late spring. The next eleven lack seals. Hokusai signed most of them with cursive forms of ‘Iitsu’ and Nishimura probably published them in the summer and fall.  This rounded out the publication of the first thirty-six prints in the set.

There is further evidence that the Fuji set was finished in the third quarter of 1832. That is a set of miniature copies of all thirty-six prints by Hokumyô, an Osaka artist who was a Hokusai pupil, judging from his name. Kawaji, a small firm active between 1830 and 1832, published the set. Kawaji also published some portraits of kabuki actors, and they establish the dates of his publishing activity.

Hokusai designed ten more prints of Mt. Fuji. Four, including the picture of the lumberyard at Honjo that announced the new series of Fuji prints, lack seals and were probably published at the end of 1832. The last six, with seals, were probably published in the spring of 1833.  As I mentioned earlier, the colors of early impressions of these prints are varied, light and transparent, similar to the Ryûkyû prints that appeared at the end of 1832. Hokusai used a blue outline for the first thirty-six views of Fuji, but a black outline on the last ten, and most of his other prints.

If I am correct, Nishimura published the Fuji set between 1831 and 1833. He published twenty prints in 1831, twenty in 1832, and six at the beginning of 1833.

Two more Nishimura sets with black outlines were probably published in 1833, Snow, Moon and Flowers, and Strange Views of Famous Bridges, although Nishimura did not advertise the Bridges until the spring of 1834. 

The only set I feel certain that Nishimura published in the spring of 1834 was the ten brilliantly colored Small Birds.  Hokusai signed them with the cursive form of ‘Iitsu’, and they must have appeared in the first or second month, just before the artist changed his name to ‘Manji’.

Nishimura announced his last set of prints, 100 Poems Told by the Nurse, as a ‘great new publication’ in the spring of 1835. Unfortunately, he had only published one group of five prints before the firm suddenly went out of business. Iseya Sanjirô published twenty-three more prints in groups in 1835 and 1836 before economic problems cause him to discontinue the set.  All but one of the prints have seals, all are printed with strong, saturated colors. Hokusai kept producing finished drawings for the set, ready for cutting, until the summer of 1839. Many drawings have survived, and four were published in Kyoto in 1920 as color prints.

The other main publisher of Hokusai’s prints in the 1830s was Moriya Jihei who I mentioned earlier in connection with Eight View of the Ryûkyû Islands and the upright landscape of Lake Suwa. 

Hokusai designed three groups of prints for Moriya in 1831. One was ten smallpictures of different subjects printed in blue on five ôban sheets. There is no doubt about their date: the artist added a seal after his signature on two of them saying that he was ‘an old man in his seventy-second year’.  

Hokusai probably wrote the pairs of senryû, or comic verse that accompanied ten more half-block prints of people with elongated limbs.  All twenty prints are signed ‘Drawn by the former Hokusai’ (Zen Hokusai hitsu, or Zen Hokusai ga), so 1831 must be the year that Moriya published a sheet of narrow panel prints with the same signature.

I mentioned earlier that around the middle of 1832 Hokusai began using the cursive form of ‘Iitsu’ in his signature and that prints published in the second half of the year lacked any inspection seal or publisher’s mark. Hokusai also said, as you remember, that 1832 was the year when he finally began to ‘understand the forms of birds, animals, insects, and fish.’ This was also the year Hokusai used yellow, green, and blue in many of his landscape prints.  For these reasons, I think that Moriya published Hokusai’s large upright prints of turtles, horses, and fish and the landscape of Lake Suwa in the second half of 1832. Three are nature studies, all of them lack marks but are carved and printed like other large upright Moriya publications, and two are printed with the yellow, green, blue palette. 

In fact, Moriya published all Hokusai’s prints in the upright nagaban format. Falcon and Two Cranes of a Snowy Pine both have inspection seals and publisher’s marks. Their colors are darker than the pictures mentioned above, and Moriya probably published them in the first half of 1833. 

Moriya’s most important Hokusai print publication is a set of ten upright pictures called The True Mirror of Poetry that illustrates themes from ancient Chinese and Japanese verse. Most of the prints were probably published in the first half of 1833. They have inspection seals and publisher’s marks; the printers use strong colors with transparent effects of overprinting similar to those on the first group of Bridges and the last Fuji prints.  The idea for the set probably came from Hokusai’s work on Tôshisen ehon gogon ritsu, a five volume illustrated anthology of famous Chinese poems of the Tang Dynasty that Suharaya published in 1/1833. In fact, the only untitled print in the series, a horseman in snow, illustrates a poem in the anthology by Du Fu, and you can see similarities between both of Hokusai’s pictures.

Moriya may have published three of the True Mirror prints Du Fu, Li Po, and Ariwara no Narihira at the end of 1832. These prints have publisher’s marks, but no inspection seals, and their palette is preponderantly yellow, green and blue. You may remember that Eight Views of the Ryûkyû Islands, another Moriya publication with publisher’s marks but no inspection seals, was published in relation to an event in 11/1832. 

Hokusai may have designed the Ariwara no Narihira print even earlier than 11/1832 because the very earliest impressions do not even have the publisher’s emblem carved on the block. Instead, they have a hand-stamped red seal with the publisher’s business name, Kinshindô, a unique occurrence on Hokusai’s prints of the 1830s. Printing differences prove that the blockcutter added Moriya’s emblem to the outline block after the hand-stamped edition was printed.

Hokusai uses the cursive form of ‘Iitsu’ in his signature on one other Moriya set, The Sea of 1000 Pictures. The ten pictures, five of rivers, five of the actual sea, were printed in pairs on ôban sheets, so only half the prints needed to have the inspection seal and publisher’s mark. Hokusai’s basic palette for the prints is yellow, green, and blue, but he adds other colors and effects of gradation and overprinting that combine strangely with the sunny basic palette and give each picture a distinct and unusual mood.  For these reasons, I have dated the Sea of Pictures to the first half of 1833.  

Black and white keyblock impressions survive for two more Sea of Pictures prints. Neither have an inspection seal or a publisher’s mark. The unpublished keyblocks were certainly cut after the first ten color prints had been printed. It is unlikely that two more prints with marks have been lost and that Moriya would have left four prints unpublished.  The two proofs without marks may be evidence that the first ten prints were published in the second quarter of 1833, and that inspection was not required later in the year. 

Tsuruya Kiemon, a well-established Edo publisher, asked Hokusai to design the colorful block printed covers for a two volume novel published in the spring of 1832, and another in the spring of 1833. He also published a strange, but important, Hokusai set of five richly colored prints of ghosts, demons, and spirits.  The set was called 100 Tales (Hyaku monogatari), the name of a group exchange of chilling supernatural tales. One print indirectly names the Tempô period that began in the 12th month of 1830, so the set is traditionally dated 1831. The artist signed the prints as ‘the former Hokusai’ (Zen Hokusai hitsu), and wrote hitsu with the last stroke lifting up at the end: Hokusai used both of these features, separately, in 1831. However, Hokusai did not use the saturated red, full-strength Prussian blue, and extremely dark overprinting in 1831. In technique and mood, these prints are closest to the Sea of Pictures prints of early 1833; in color, closest to the Small Birds of early 1834. Since they are summer subjects and lack inspection seals, they were probably published in the summer of 1833, and certainly no later.  Hokusai’s pupil, the Osaka artist Shunkôsai Hokuei, copied two of the Ghosts in actor portraits published after 11/1831, when Iwai Shijaku began acting in Osaka, and before 11/1833 when the artist changed his studio name from Shunkôsai to Shumbaisai.

Hokusai designed a set of deeply colored warrior prints with dark Prussian blue backgrounds. He signed them with the cursive form of ‘Iitsu’; they have inspection seals and publisher’s marks. Yamamotoya Heikichi probably published them in the spring of 1834.  

Likewise, Akamatsuya Shôtarô probably published the deeply colored Snow, Moon and Flowers at Famous Places (Shôkei setsugekka) in the spring of 1834. Hokusais signed each of these nine small prints with the cursive ‘Iitsu’, and the publisher’s mark and inspection seal appears on each of them. These marks are lacking on Eight Views of Edo (Edo hakkei), another small set of eight brightly colored landscapes with frame-like western-style borders. Hokusai signed these prints with the cursive ‘Iitsu’ and Akamatsuya probably published them in the second half of 1833. 

Hokusai designed nine fan prints signed Manji. Flying Falcon announces the artist’s name change from Iitsu to Manji. As you remember, Hokusai first announced this change on the wrapper of the first volume of 100 Views of Mt. Fuji in 3/1834, so a date of early summer 1834 for the Falcon is likely. The additional fact that all of Hokusai’s fan prints published in 1831-1833 and 1835 have at least two of these marks makes the 1834 date certain. 

Summer 1834 must also be the date of Strange Views of Famous Places (Shôkei kiran), a set of eight fan prints that also lack inspection and date seals or publisher’s marks. Three were printed in shades of deep Prussian blue with a band of orange; three were printed with a full range of colors; two were printed in two editions, one blue, one with a full palette.

Jûzô Suzuki (1968) suggested that a group of nine unsigned landscape drawings once owned by the Tokyo publisher Shôzaburô Watanabe were Hokusai illustrations for an unpublished poetry anthology. The artist redrew them in different formats and included five in Sea of 1000 Pictures (1833), three in Strange Views (1834), and one 100 Poems Told by the Nurse (1835). 

Hokusai drew a large topographical view of China in 1840 and a print of surveyors in 1848. He also designed a few surimono in the 1830s and 1840s, including a self-portrait as a seated fisherman to celebrate completion of the 100 Views of Mt. Fuji in the late summer of 1835.  But most of Hokusai’s single-sheet color prints in the last two decades of his life (he died in 1849), were commercially published between the spring of 1831 and the spring of 1836.