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It might sound a corny to say that artists live through their works, but in the case of Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), whose lengthy life story is mired in muddles, myths and myriad name changes, it is his art that speaks with the clearest voice and that provides the scale with which to weigh the words describing his life.

This not only gives art historians and academics something to do, but also opens up and clarifies story lines in the life of the artist routinely hailed as Japan’s greatest. The exhibition “Siebold & Hokusai and his Tradition” at the Edo-Tokyo Museum until Jan. 27, 2008 is a case in point.

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