Han var 88 år gammel da han døde, og på sit dødsleje rapporteres det at han udbrød:
"If only Heaven will give me just another ten years... Just another five more years, then I could become a real painter."
He became increasingly famous over the next decade, both due to his artwork and his talent for self-promotion. During a Tokyo festival in 1804, he created a portrait of the Buddhist priest Daruma said to be 600 feet (180 m) long using a broom and buckets full of ink. Another story places him in the court of the Shogun Iyenari, invited there to compete with another artist who practiced more traditional brush stroke painting. Hokusai's painting, created in front of the Shogun, consisted of painting a blue curve on paper, then chasing a chicken across it whose feet had been dipped in red paint. He described the painting to the Shogun as a landscape showing the Tatsuta River with red maple leaves floating in it, winning the competition.
Kilder mener at han i sit liv producerede mere end 30.000 træsnit og malerier.Hokusai used this talent to earn rice for himself and his family on many occasions. He would have a person draw blobs or shapes and then he would connect them to create a picture. The price for this "make-it-yourself" art was whatever rice the person could give. Hokusai's work as well as his personality attracted commissions. He once made a drawing of a Buddha so large that a horse could fit through its mouth. In contrast, he also painted two flying sparrows on a grain of rice. That showed his ability to do about anything. He successfully combined the traditional Japanese styles with Chinese and then later introduced Western influences into his art.
From around the age of six, I had the habit of sketching from life. I became an artist, and from fifty on began producing works that won some reputation, but nothing I did before the age of seventy was worthy of attention. At seventy-three, I began to grasp the structures of birds and beasts, insects and fish, and of the way plants grow. If I go on trying, I will surely understand them still better by the time I am eighty-six, so that by ninety I will have penetrated to their essential nature. At one hundred, I may well have a positively divine understanding of them, while at one hundred and thirty, forty, or more I will have reached the stage where every dot and every stroke I paint will be alive. May Heaven, that grants long life, give me the chance to prove that this is no lie
Det er svært ikke at associere til den ældre Picasso og hans mytologiske billeder af sig selv som voldsomt amourøs minotaur:
Det var så det nye indtryk der satte sig i mig fra udstillingen i Berlin: Hokusai er ikke bare en tegner og maler i verdensklasse - af bølger og landskaber, bjerge og fugle, vandfald og broer - og af japanske kurtisaner i fantastisk kimonoer. Han behersker stort set alle genrer i datidens japanske kunst og fonyr og udvikler dem systematisk - en efter en i forskellige perioder af sit liv.
Her kommer nogle sene selvportrætter, heller ikke uden humor og selvironi:
Den britiske filmmager Bruno Wollheim, der før har portrætteret den populære britiske maler, David Hockney, fik uhindret adgang til at filme Hockney.Det blev et projekt, der tog en uventet drejning, da Hockney efter mange år i Californien vendte hjem til England og slog sig ned i Yorkshire.Gennem tre år og i alt slags vejr filmede Wollheim David Hochney med et lille videokamera, mens han malede det, der endte med at blive det største landskabsmaleri malet udendørs.
Hockney was born with synesthesia; he sees synesthetic colours to musical stimuli. In general, this does not show up in his painting or photography artwork too much. However, it is a common underlying principle in his construction of stage sets for various ballets and operas, where he bases the background colours and lighting upon his own seen colours while listening to the music of the theatre piece he is working on.
Og nu vi snakker om portrætter, så ville fruen og jeg også ind og se en anden stærkt opreklameret udstilling i Berlin: "Renæssancens ansigter". Vi stod en halv time i billetkøen, og ved lugen fik vi så at vide at vi derefter skulle vente i en til to timer indtil nummeret på vores billet dukked op på en skærm. Først da ville bi blive lukket ind.
Men her er et portrætmaleri af Leonard da Vinci som vi så ikke fik set: "Dame med hermelin".
Det er godt at hele udstillingens portrætbilleder kan findes på nettet!