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Totoya Hokkei Biography

Totoya Hokkei started out as a fishmonger and became one of Hokusai’s most successful and prolific pupils in the genre of surimono and book illustration. The name ’Totoya’, literally ‘fishmonger’ reveals his plebeian upbringing, but from an early age he was apprenticed to the Kanō school painter Yōsen’in (1753-1808). By 1799 he was working in the Hokusai studio and by the late 1810s had established himself as a surimono designer. Hokkei worked closely with is teacher on the compilation of the early volumes of the Hokusai manga from the mid-to late 1810s. By the late 1820s he was producing some of the most compositionally and technically complex surimono ever made. His best surimono composition reveal a healty sense of humour and innovative visual imagination. By the early 1820s, after Shunman’s death and after Hokusai had ceased from taking on major surimono commissions, Hokkei and Kagutei established themselves as the primary surimono designers. Hokkei cultivated a discerning clientele that included samurai intellectuals and scholars.