The Great Wave

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  • Topic: Japan, Hokusai, The Great Wave off Kanagawa
  • Pages : 3 (892 words )
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  • Published : October 14, 2013
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Katsushika Hokusai. The Great Wave off Kanagawa from Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. c. 1831. Polychrome woodblock print on paper, 9 7/8” x 14 5/8” (25 x 37.1 cm).

Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa is a woodblock print that was published around 1831, and it is one of the most iconic Japanese works of art in the world. It depicts a colossal wave about to come crashing down on three fishing boats, or oshiokuri-bune—Japanese fishing boats that are known for their speed (Cartwright and Nakamura). On the horizon is Mount Fuji, the highest and most scared mountain in Japan, dwarfed by the wave. The spray from the wave starts to look like snow falling on the peak of the mountain, something of a visual joke (Clark).

As stated before, The Great Wave is a woodblock print, made in the tradition of the Japanese ukiyo-e style (Wanczura). In order to create these works of art, a woodprint is created by carving an image into a block. The raised areas are then covered with ink, and the block is pressed firmly against a sheet of paper to produce the image. Traditional color woodblock prints like The Great Wave are produced by carving one block for each color (Wanczura).

The Great Wave was created by Hokusai when he was seventy-years-old, as a part of his Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji series. A series is a group of separate, individual artworks created by one artist along with the same theme (Stokstad and Cothran). These are two other pieces of this series are: Shichirigahama in Sagami Province (Figure 1) and The Lake at Hakone in Sagami Province (Figure 2).

The print covered here consists of three main elements: the restless sea, three boats, and Mount Fuji in the background. Many people believe the wave is the result of a tsunami, but this is not true (Wanczura). Hokusai just wanted to make a striking image that caught the nature of a large wave, and to demonstrate how tiny mankind is in comparison to forces of nature (Wanczura). He stated in his...
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