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painting / hanging scroll

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Painting, hanging scroll. Two mallards paddling in a flowing stream: one diving amongst water-weeds; maple leaves on water surface. Ink and colours on silk. Signed and sealed. With paulownia storage box.

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1847
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 111 centimetres
    • Width: 40 centimetres
    • Height: 218 centimetres (mount)
    • Width: 62.2 centimetres (Mount)
    • Diameter: 2.8 centimetres (Jiku)
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

        image, bottom left
      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Transliteration

        Yowai hachijuhachi Manji
      • Inscription Translation

        Manji, aged eighty-eight
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Position

        image, bottom left
      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Transliteration

      • Inscription Translation

      • Inscription Comment

        In red.
  • Curator's comments

    Smith 1988

    A fine example of Hokusai's evergreen skill in his last years. The signature is 'Eighty-eight year-old Manji'.Clark 1992

    Two male mallards paddle against the current, one diving to fish amongst the water-weed. Fallen red maple leaves float by on the surface. The unusual optical effects - the modulation of washes across the sweeping bands of the current and the pond weeds painted in different shades of varying intensities depending on their depth from the surface - are evidence of Hokusai's long-standing interest in and experimentation with techniques derived from Western paintings and prints, although these never become obtrusive. Some of the maple leaves are also painted less distinctly to suggest they are sinking into the water. They are deftly drawn with a crispness and variety of tints that provide evidence of authenticity as certain as any signature or seal.

    At a recent International Conference on Hokusai's paintings (University of Venice, May 1990) Kobayashi Tadashi proposed the intriguing theory that from about the age of eighty-seven Hokusai was no longer able to sustain the control necessary to paint drawn-out or sweeping lines. When viewed close up, any seemingly long lines on an authentic work of his late period are found to be made up of a series of overlapping shorter strokes - a moving testament to the old man's fierce determination to disguise a shaking hand. In this painting the plumage of the birds (the most detailed part of the painting) are in fact built up with a variety of small strokes, in a manner that would accord with Professor Kobayashi's theory, and coloured in a brilliant palette. Hokusai gives detailed instructions for painting ducks and, indeed, illustrates a very similar bird in his painting manual 'Ehon saishiki tsu' ('On the Use of Colour', 1848, vol. 1, p. 13 verso). The poses of the birds have that characteristic combination of the bizarre and the closely observed that makes all Hokusai's birds and beasts so entertaining.

    Hillier, Jack, 'Hokusai: Paintings, Drawings and Woodcuts'. London, Phaidon, 1955, no. 82.
    Tokyo, Ueno no Mori Bijutsukan, 'Daiei Hakubutsukan shozo ukiyo-e meisaku ten' ('Masterpieces of Ukiyo-e from the British Museum'). Exh. cat., 29 March-12 Apr. 1985, no. 168.
    Forrer, Matthi, and Goncourt, Edmond de, 'Hokusai'. New York, Rizzoli, 1988, no. 441.
    Clark, Timothy. "Paintings by Hokusai in the British Museum", 'Orientations'. Vol. 21, no. 8 (Aug. 1990), 37-44, fig. 10.Asahi 1996





    (竹内美砂子(名古屋市博物館))Clark 2017

    One male mallard looks quizzically out at us; the other
    dives for pond weed. Ripples eddy towards us, creating
    complex visual effects – clearly of particular interest to
    Hokusai – suggesting light and reflection. Fallen maple
    leaves sink into the water and start to disappear, and
    the richly coloured weed fades to indistinct silhouettes
    in the depths. Far beyond mere naturalism, there is an
    almost symbolic reverence for the moment, a sense of
    personal identification with the natural world, a mood
    shared with some other of the final paintings (cat. 00).
    In Picture Book: Essence of Colouring (cat. 211), published
    the following year, Hokusai gives instructions on how
    to paint just such a duck, as well as many other birds,
    creatures and plants, providing black-and-white
    illustrations while also giving recipes for preparing the
    necessary pigments.(Timothy Clark)


  • Bibliography

    • Clark 1992 103 bibliographic details
    • Hizo Ukiyo-e taikan Vol 1 143 bibliographic details
    • Smith 1988 168 bibliographic details
    • Clark 2017 210 bibliographic details
    • Asahi 1996 66 bibliographic details
    • Morrison 1911 vol. 2, pl. XXVII bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G35/dc20

  • Exhibition history


    2014 Oct- 2015 Jan, Reunion des musees nationaux Grand Palais, Hokusai
    2017 25 May - 13 Aug, London, BM, G35, Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    The collection of Japanese and Chinese paintings belonging to Arthur Morrison was purchased by Sir William Gwynne-Evans, who presented it to the British Museum in 1913.

  • Department


  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • Jap.Ptg.1453 (Japanese Painting Number)
Kakemono. General subject - bird. Ducks in a stream. Ink and colours on silk.                SIGN + SEAL

Kakemono. General subject - bird. Ducks in a stream. Ink and colours on silk. SIGN + SEAL

Image description



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Object reference number: JCF5101

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