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The Great Wave off Kanagawa

The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai
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Artist: Katsushika Hokusai    Image Code: V03134

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  • Artist: Katsushika Hokusai

    Katsushika Hokusai (c. October 31, 1760-May 10, 1849) was born in Edo, Japan (present-day Tokyo) and began painting and drawing at the age of six. He is widely considered to be one of the most important and influential Japanese artists of his time, particularly in the ukiyo-e school of painting of the Edo Period. Earning early work as a woodblock carver, Hokusai made woodblocks and colored prints of portraits of actors and courtesans. Soon after, he broke away from this style and began developing his talents as an ukiyo-e painter, focusing on Japanese landscapes and genre scenes. At the peak of his career, Hokusai completed his famous series, “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji,” which became so popular that he eventually added ten more to the series. Hokusai’s influence reached France, where artists such as Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir were inspired by his artistic talents and choices of subjects. Hokusai’s influence can be seen throughout the history of not only Eastern art, but also of Western painting and drawing. 

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  • Artwork Details

    Easily the most well-known woodblock print of Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, The Great Wave off Kanagawa (otherwise known as The Great Wave, The Wave, or Under the Wave off Kanagawa) has become the emblem of the Edo period in Japanese art. Published between 1830 and 1832, The Great Wave is part of Hokusai’s famous series, Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. Hokusai’s woodblock prints were so popular at the time of their publication that the series actually contains 46 images, as after the initial 36 were complete, 10 more were added due to high demand. The composition of the print aligns with the traditional Ukiyo-e genre of woodblock prints, demonstrating Hokusai’s mastery of the yoko-e, or landscape print. While the titular wave dominates the foreground, Mount Fuji stands out in the background, a symbol of strength, beauty, and national identity for the Japanese people. Copies of this print, one of the most recognizable in the world, reside all over the globe, from the Metropolitan in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago to the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne and the former house of Claude Monet in Giverny, France.