Black ink drawing of a person looking up and holding onto the moon in the sky, with Japanese writing down the left-hand side of the page.

Past exhibition

30 September 2021 – 30 January 2022

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For the catalogue, homewares and gifts from the exhibition, visit the British Museum Shop.

This five-star exhibition showcased a collection of rare drawings by Katsushika Hokusai – one of Japan's most celebrated artists, best known for his iconic print, Under the Wave off Kanagawa, popularly called The Great Wave.

In a global first, this exhibition displayed 103 recently acquired drawings by Hokusai, produced in the 1820s–1840s for an illustrated encyclopedia called The Great Picture Book of Everything. For reasons unknown, the book was never published, presenting the opportunity to see these exceptional works which would otherwise have been destroyed as part of the woodblock printing process.

Depicting scenes from Buddhist India, ancient China and the natural world, the brush drawings not only showcased Hokusai's inimitable style and skill, but also revealed a version of 19th-century Japan much more intrigued by the wider world than previously thought. 

As well as offering the unique chance to study Hokusai's masterful brushwork directly, the show shone a light on the last chapter of the artist's career and life, uncovering a restless talent that burned brightly into his final years. 

In addition to the original brush drawings, the exhibition showcased Hokusai's masterpiece The Great Wave, alongside objects that gave further insight into his working practices and demonstrated the intricate process by which his woodblock prints were created.



View the large print guide, which is designed for visually impaired visitors and provides all the exhibition text in large print.


Teachers' resources

Discover ideas for learning in the exhibition and in the classroom with free downloadable resources for teachers.

For students aged 11–18 (KS3 – KS5).

Exhibition supporter

The Asahi Shimbun Company

The Asahi Shimbun Company is a longstanding corporate sponsor of the British Museum. The Asahi Shimbun is a Japanese leading newspaper and the company also provides a substantial information service via the internet. The company has a century-long tradition of philanthropic support, notably staging key exhibitions in Japan on art, culture and history from around the world. In addition to supporting Hokusai: The Great Picture Book of Everything, The Asahi Shimbun Company also supports The Asahi Shimbun Displays in Room 3 and is a committed supporter of the British Museum touring exhibition programme in Japan. They are the funder of The Asahi Shimbun Gallery of Amaravati sculpture in Room 33a of the British Museum, and a supporter of the iconic Great Court.