Hokusai: A Graphic Biography tells the iconic Japanese artist’s life story through illustration

Created by Francesco Matteuzzi and Giuseppe Latanza, the book examines Katsushika Hokusai’s path to creating The Wave in the context of Edo-era Japan.

31 March 2021
Reading Time
2 minute read


Laurence King is publishing the first-ever graphic novel biography of legendary Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, creator of one of the best-known artworks in history: The Great Wave off Kanagawa. Created by Giuseppe Latanza and Francesco Matteuzzi, Hokusai: A Graphic Biography tells the story of Hokusai’s life and his vision of Japan through illustration, depicting how the artist came to create The Wave amidst the historical context of the Edo era.

Matteuzzi is a journalist, screenwriter, editor and author, formerly editor-in-chief of Europe’s longest-running magazine dedicated to comics, Fumo di China, and a screenwriting teacher at the International School of Comics. He has also previously created a graphic biography of Russian journalist and activist Anna Politkovskaja, and another more narrative-driven graphic novel titled Desert Route. Matteuzzi tells It’s Nice That his fascination with Hokusai was sparked by an exhibition he saw in Copenhagen about Japanese printing and illustration, where the artist’s work jumped out to him. This led the writer to delve into research about Hokusai’s life, discovering his eccentric, ambitious and incredibly productive dedication to art, and eventually pitch to publishing design agency Studio Ram the idea of telling his story through a graphic novel.

“I wanted to write about two sides of Hokusai,” Matteuzzi says, “some memorable and almost fantastic stories about his life, but also how he was a pioneer in creating iconic works of art.” He undertook all the research himself to write the narrative, and meanwhile Studio Ram – specialists in comic books – approached cartoonist and illustrator Giuseppe Latanza to bring the story to life in pictures.

“I knew [Hokusai’s] artwork well, and studied all the possible details on how he drew people, clothes, actions, cities and nature,” says Latanza, who is himself a long-time professor at the Graphite School of Graphics and Comics. “I wanted to recreate his style as much as possible, so that the book also communicated his story through the imagery.” The result celebrates Hokusai’s story and legacy in a creative format paying homage to the subject himself.

Hokusai: A Graphic Biography is published by Laurence King tomorrow 1 April 2021.

GalleryFrancesco Matteuzzi and Giuseppe Latanza: Hokusai: A Graphic Biography (Copyright © Laurence King, 2021)

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Francesco Matteuzzi and Giuseppe Latanza: Hokusai: A Graphic Biography (Copyright © Laurence King, 2021)

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

Jenny joined the editorial team as It’s Nice That’s first news editor in April 2016. Having studied 3D Design, she has spent over a decade working in design journalism. Contact her with news stories relating to the creative industries on jb@itsnicethat.com.

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