Katsushika Hokusai, 1760–1849
From the Large Flower Series, ca. 1832
Color woodblock print (nishiki-e) with mica background
Bequest of Richard P. Gale 74.1.206
Cat. no. 133

Poppies were introduced to Japan during the Muromachi period (1392–1573) from China, where they had been cultivated as early as the 7th century. Hokusai’s poppies appear to be blown by the wind. Their tall, flexible stems and stiff, serrated leaves have been deftly captured. The prickly roughness of the blue-gray leaves is suggested by black stippling, while subtly darker veining on the petals conveys the flowers’ paperlike delicacy. The pale blue background implies clear, sunny weather, conducive to ripening the seedpods that complete the growth cycle. Petals on one blossom have already fallen, leaving only the seedpod. Such details would seem to indicate Hokusai’s close observation of actual poppies.