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Hokusai and The Great Wave off Kanagawa

Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北斎) (1760 – 1849) was a famous Japanese artist. His most notable artwork is The Great Wave off Kanagawa. His works have inspired a lot of impressionists/post-impressionists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet.

Hokusai specialized in Ukiyo-e (浮世絵) painting, in which artists use woodblock to print or paint. The subjects of this Ukiyo-e artworks are mostly personalities such as beautiful female figures, sumo wrestlers, theater characters, and folk stories and scenery. Other than Hokusai, the other famous artist of Ukiyo-e is Utagawa Hiroshige and his The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō.

Fifty-three Stations on the Tokaido Road by Utagawa Hiroshige

Fifty-three Stations on the Tokaido Road by Utagawa Hiroshige

Hokusai was a leading piece of Japonism in the 19th century Europe. The trade of goods began with Dutch in late 17th century, harboring an island off Nagasaki. Later with the lift of the restrictions on imports and exports between western countries and Japan, French artists started to collect Japanese artworks and to adapt the techniques of ukiyo-e prints. The asymmetrical compositions, usage of colors, abstraction expression influenced widely the artists in Paris during the impressionism period.

The Great Wave Off Kanagawa is a part of the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. The subject of the series, Mount Fuji was placed as a small triangle at the off-center of the painting. Mount Fuji is regarded by Japanese as a symbol of beauty and also the national pride. This snow-peaked Mount Fuji was accompanied by three fishing boats in the midst of the storm. The high breaking wave expresses the fierce and danger with the craw-like ends. Do not miss the signature on the left-upper corner of the print, where the name of the series, print, and the artist‘s signature were written is traditional format, up-to down.


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