Maki Bokusen (1736-1824)



Given names: Bokusen; Maki-Nobumitsu Bokusen; Gekkotei; Hokusen; Hokutei; Hyakusai; Maki Shin’ei; Suke-emon; Tokoro; Utamasa.


Bokusen was a Nagoya samurai of the local Owari Fief and ukiyo-e painter, printmaker and copperplate etcher. He was a student of Utamaro and also, as C H Mitchell states, a friend and acknowledged pupil of Hokusai although much of his work bears little resemblance to that of Hokusai.


Bokusen is known for his collaboration with Hokusai on the master’s Manga: It seems that the idea was conceived when Hokusai, at Bokusen’s invitation, went to Nagoya for an extended visit in 1811/12. Hokusai stayed for six months with Bokusen and during this time developed a circle of students and successfully cultivated his popularity in Nagoya. Hanshu Sanjin in his 1812 preface to Volume One of Hokusai’s Manga writes that over 300 spontaneous drawings were made during this visit. And this is what possibly inspired Bokusen to approach the legendary Nagoya publisher Eirakuya Toshiro, who had previously published illustrated book(s) by him, to turn Hokusai’s sketches into a book. Bokusen and another of Hokusai’s students, Tonansai Hokuun, are credited as copying Hokusai’s drawings in preparation for the woodblock cutter as the term “ko” or “revisers” is used in the colophon, suggesting that it was the two pupils who arranged the varied sketches.


Bokusen’s own published works include:


c1809 Kyogaen shohen. (Mad Sketches)
1809 Bokusen gafu (Album of Sketches by Bokusen)
1810 Hitoyo banashi (One Evening’s Talk)
1813 Shiki sanbaso (The Sanbaso in Four Seasons)
1814 Mushi no koe (Songs of insects). Bokusen and other artists
1815 Bokusen soga shashin gakuhitsu (Various Dreamings by Bokusen: A Study in Truthful Painting)
1816 Santei gafu. Bokusen and Hokusai publish a Manual for Illustration in Three Styles. The illustrations in this publication apply shin, gyo, and so styles to depict a range of subjects
1822 Kusa no na shu (Aki) (Collection of Autumn Grasses). Various artists including Bokusen
1823 Ippitsu gafu (A Book of Drawings Made by One Stroke of the Brush) Hokusai assisted by Bokusen
1827 Kusa no na shu (Haru fuyu) (Collection of Spring and Winter Grasses). Various artists including Bokusen




Bokusen’s work in copperplate etching is not well known to collectors of ukiyo-e, certainly not compared with his better recognised contemporaries Kokan (1747-1818) and Denzen (1748-1822) who used the technology for familiar subjects such as famous views of Edo to create a new type of image that integrated pictorial traditions of the West. Bokusen’s work with copperplate etchings was concerned with a scientific accuracy and faithfulness to the original illustration. For the Japanese translation Surgical Medicine, he produced copper-etching prints based on the illustrations in Lorenz Heister’s Heelkundige Onderwyzingen.


Bokusen’s books, paintings and prints are held in international museum collections.


Please follow this link to see an image of his painting Courtesan and Teenage Appentice in the Museum of Fine Art Boston.


To accompany this blog I am offering for sale an original Bokusen painting, full colour on silk.