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August 24, 2011

Hokusai's Ripple Effect

By Rachel Wolff | Art

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Locally grown: Fulvio Massi, Familiar Refrain, 2011. Courtesy of the artist

With its stylized crests and tentacle-like sea foam, Hokusai's Great Wave off the Coast of Kanagawa regularly ranks among the most beloved and recognizable artworks in the world, right up there with masterpieces by Monet and van Gogh—yet the artist himself is hardly a household name. However, a new retrospective of Hokusai's work at the Martin-Gropius-Bau Museum in Berlin seeks to illuminate the full range of the Japanese maestro's impressive output, not to mention the substantial impact he had on 19th-century European art. Hokusai's work is thought to have first reached Europe in a somewhat serendipitous way—his manga (comic strips) was used to wrap and package precious Japanese porcelain when it was shipped off to connoisseurs. French painter and printmaker Félix Bracquemond discovered the illustrations and quickly sang their praises to his artistic cohorts in Paris. Hokusai's work went on to influence a 19th-century European art movement known as Japonism. It was embraced by Manet, Renoir, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and many others. "After 180 years, the time has come to understand the significant influence Hokusai had on European painting," says curator Seiji Nagata, "and to enjoy his charm." August 26-October 24; Niederkirchnerstraße 7, Berlin; 49-30/254-860; gropiusbau.de

Before you go: A guide to Berlin

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