Hokusai in Two Art Contests

(a footnote to my comments about Hokusai below) Art was often treated as a competitive spectator sport in Japan two hundred years ago. Hokusai often took an astoundingly original approach.

In one he commandeered an open space in town, and walked around with a stick, inscribing lines in the dirt. When he had finished, he asked the judges to climb up into a local bell tower. It was a portrait of the lead judge, his face over 100′ high.

Many contests had a theme. One in which Hokusai was competing had the subject ‘autumn leaves in water’. Hokusai unrolled paper to about 25′ in length, then strolled along it with a large brush five times making five wavy and parallel lines of blue. He then borrowed a chicken, dipped its feet in russet paint and shoved it off across the paper to complete the work.