|The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai|
Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper 25.7 cm × 37.8 cm (10.1 in × 14.9 in)
It was the first print in Hokusai's portfolio series of prints Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji - which was very much designed, produced and published as something tourists and religious buyers might want to buy. The series shows everyday activities with human interest and a focus on the world of work while some are abstracted.
The 36 Views were also based on a vibrant new colour - Prussian Blue!
The construction of the design is based on geometry and arrangements of circles and triangles. There is also a sense of space collapsing which is no doubt enhanced by his study of perspective.
On YouTube there are five videos of a documentary programme about The Great Wave. It explains
- how it came about (Hokusai's grandson had gambled away all his money and he was destitute),
- what sort of wave it is (it's not a tsunami but rather a very large cascading pyramidal wave - which is a real wave)
- explains the context for this particular woodcut print in terms of the fashion for the art of theoating world
- identifies that Hokusai studied Dutch prints and that the design is influenced by European art and his knowledge of perspective
- how he studied waves over 30 years prior to creating this particular image
- explains how the print was produced
- discusses the translation of the title
- unpicks who the boatmen are and speculates that they may have been trying to get the first bunito tuna of the season to market - but for the fact they are facing the wrong way! But then comments that since th Japanese eye reads from right to left the wave would be splashing into the viewer's face.
- It also identifies that the secondary wave in the foreground is exactly the same outline as Mount Fuji - a tremendously important iconic image in Japanese art.
- how it a print that we know was owned by Monet and Van Gogh - but how it went in and out of fashion.
- The Great Wave (Japanese Art Documentary) 2/5
- The Great Wave (Japanese Art Documentary) 3/5
- The Great Wave (Japanese Art Documentary) 4/5
- The Great Wave (Japanese Art Documentary) 5/5
Note: Kanagawa is part of a the southern Kantō region of Honshū, Japan and surrounds Tokyo Bay.
Links to more information about Japanese Art: