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Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), Under the Wave, offKanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami-ura)
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THIS IS PERHAPS the single most famous of Hokusai’s colour woodblock prints, indeed possibly the most famous of all Japanese prints. The graceful snow-clad Mount Fuji stands in the background of the print, its white cap contrasting against the deep blue of the horizon. It is however, reduced to a tiny hillock compared with the towering strength of the wave which threatens to engulf the struggling boats. Such clever, playful manipulation of composition is a feature on many of Hokusai’s works.

The print belongs to the series ‘Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji’, the first to exploit the new, cheaply available, chemical Berlin blue pigment. Hokusai’s series was so commercially successful that the publisher, Nishimuraya Eijudo, extended it with another ten prints, printed this time with black instead of blue outlines. Though highly valued today, several thousand impressions were taken from the cherry-wood printing blocks, literally as many as the publisher could sell.

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), Under the Wave, offKanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami-ura)

From Japan, Edo period, c. AD 1829-33
Ht 25.9 cm
Bequeathed by Charles Shannon, RA

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