The Great Wave off Kanagawa, known as “The Great Wave” (or “The Great Wave of Kanagawa”), from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, is a woodblock print by the Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hokusai.
Hokusai’s most famous work is one of the best-recognized works of Japanese art in the world. It depicts an enormous wave threatening boats off the coast of the prefecture of Kanagawa. While sometimes assumed to be a tsunami, the wave is more likely to be a large rogue wave, as the picture’s title suggests.
It was made between 1830 and 1833, in the late Edo period. It was first published by the Tokugawa shogunate in the late Edo period when the series was very popular. Hokusai’s most famous work is one of the best-recognized works of Japanese art in the world.
Ukiyo-e mastery with a Dutch influence
Hokusai is a ukiyo-e master. He is a master of design, using geometric shapes to draw the viewer’s eye into the scene. This one uses a triangle of Mount Fuji in the background and a massive circle of waves in the foreground. The waves fill the scene but move in a circle around the smaller triangle of Fuji. In the distance, tiny people in boats struggle to stay alive while waves crash over their little craft.
Japanese art’s traditional colors are pretty, but they were not strong enough for Hokusai’s taste. His waves are a deep blue, but the foreground is dominated by the ocean’s intense blue. Hokusai used Prussian blue, which is much more concentrated and potent than the traditional vegetal alternative. It is also more vivid, but it fades much faster than conventional Japanese pigments.
The inclusion of this pigment in the sea was also a departure from traditional Japanese painting, which typically uses only natural colors. The overall effect is one of depth and space, achieved through the use of light and shadow. The influence of European art is also evident in the work’s strong vertical lines. The strong, dark lines are also typical of the woodblock prints of the time.
In the background of Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa is Mount Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan. It was the most sacred of all Japanese mountains and the most popular spot for Japanese people to visit in their lifetime. At one time, the mountain-inspired many artists to create their works like The Great Wave off Kanagawa.