Hokusai's Iconic "Great Wave"
Posted: Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, 1760–1849). "Under the Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami ura)," also known as "the Great Wave," from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei), ca. 1830–32. Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper; 10 1/8 x 14 15/16 in. (25.7 x 37.9 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (JP1847)
«The world-renowned landscape print "Under the Wave off Kanagawa"—also known as "the Great Wave"—is now on view in Gallery 231, complementing paintings by Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) and his pupils that are currently on display as part of the exhibition The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks from the Feinberg Collection.»
Hokusai's career spanned over seven decades. Not only did he achieve fame for his dynamic designs for woodblock prints and illustrated books, but he was a skilled painter as well. Known for his ingenuity in creating striking designs through the clever use of perspective, Hokusai here shows Japan's tallest peak, Mount Fuji, as a small triangle in the distance, seen beneath a cresting wave—a symbol of nature's power.
The sophisticated use of various hues of blue is a distinctive feature of several prints from the Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series, to which "the Great Wave" belongs. At the time this print was produced, there was a demand for Berlin blue—popularly known as "Prussian blue"—imported from Europe. Scientific analysis has since revealed that both Prussian blue and traditional indigo were used in "the Great Wave" to create subtle gradations in the coloring of this dramatic composition.
To prevent fading, we will rotate different impressions of "the Great Wave" from the Met's collection throughout the summer.
Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, 1760–1849). "Storm below Mount Fuji (Sanka no haku u)," from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei), ca. 1830–32. Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper; 9 3/4 x 14 3/4 in. (24.8 x 37.5 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Howard Mansfield Collection, Purchase, Rogers Fund, 1936 (JP2567)