Not currently on display

 

Hokusai's The Great Wave

Japan, Edo period, about AD 1831

Hokusai's The Great Wave

Download this video to watch in your favourite media player, or to view this video online please enable javascript.

Using this on a mobile device? Tap the image to watch.
On desktop, requires Flash player or click image to download.


Watch more BSL video descriptions

The Great Wave

Download this video to watch in your favourite media player, or to view this video online please enable javascript.

Using this on a mobile device? Tap the image to watch.
On desktop, requires Flash player or click image to download.


Watch more videos from the Talking Objects series

Katsushika Hokusai, 'Under the Wave, off Kanagawa' (Kanagawa oki nami-ura), a colour woodblock print.


This is perhaps the single most famous of Hokusai's woodblock prints - perhaps of all Japanese prints. It belongs to the series 'Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji' (Fugaku sanjūrokkei).

The graceful snow-clad mountain stands out unperturbed against the deep blue of the horizon. Yet it is 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 the composition is a feature of many of Hokusai's works.

This monumental series was the first to exploit the new chemical Berlin blue pigment, which had recently become cheaply available from China. It provided Hokusai with a strong blue for both sky and water and had the added advantage that it did not fade. Hokusai's series was so commercially successful that the publisher, Nishimuraya Eijudō, extended it with another ten prints, printed this time with black instead of blue outlines.

Several thousand impressions were taken of the design from the cherry-wood printing blocks, literally as many as the publisher could sell. This is a fine early impression, still with sharp outlines, which formerly belonged to the French collector René Druart (1888-1961)

93.

Hokusai's The
Great Wave

Listen now

Related products

Book

A History of the World in 100 objects

 
By Neil MacGregor

Accompanies the BBC Radio 4 series


Object details

Height: 25.8 cm
Width: 37.9 cm

 

Asia JA 2008,3008.1

Asia

     

    Acquired with the assistance of The Art Fund

    References

    L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in the British Museum (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)

    T. Clark, 100 views of Mount Fuji (London, The British Museum Press, 2001)

    T. Clark, Hokusai's Great Wave (London, The British Museum Press, 2011)

    See this object in our Collection database online

    Further reading

    J.L. Huffman, Japan in World History (Oxford, 2010)

    J. Bouquillard, Hokusai’s Mount Fuji: The Complete Views in Color (New York, 2007)