- Museum number
Object: Sanka hakuu 山下白雨 (Rainstorm Beneath the Summit)
Series: Fugaku sanjurokkei 冨嶽三十六景 (Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji)
Colour woodblock oban print. Peak of Mt Fuji with snow rising above wreath of crumpled thunder clouds behind middle slopes and shadow cast by mountain at right; forks of lightning at bottom right. 1 of 2 impressions. Inscribed and signed.
- Production date
- 1831 (probably late 1831 (Keyes and Morse 2015))
Height: 24.10 centimetres
Width: 36.50 centimetres
- Curator's comments
The constant, restless development of concepts and forms was at the heart of Hokusai's art. 'Rainstorm Beneath the Summit' makes, superficially, minimal changes to the composition of 'South Wind, Clear Sky' (cat. 53) and yet the two designs are deliberately contrasting, down to the smallest detail. Calm and brightness - even optimism - give way to a certain agitation and darkness, as a sudden storm erupts around the base of the mountain. Jagged forks of lightning form an untidy echo of the attenuated slopes, like a visual exclamation of the crack of the thunder that must accompany them. But the peak, dusted with more snow than before, still rises unconcerned above the wreath of crumpled thunder clouds that mass behind the middle slopes and the shadow cast by the mountain at the right. If the triple summit is interpreted to show the back of Fuji then the intention may also have been to set up contrasts of front/back, morning/evening, fair weather/storm (See the comments by Kobayashi Tadashi, UT 1975, no. 3). The fingers of dappled brown and orange that rise to interlock with the descending ribbons of snow suggest deep clefts in the side of the mountain.
Damage to the blocks in two places fairly soon after publication began distinguishes the earliest printings: the right one of two prominent brown dots beneath the centre of the summit disappears (it is missing here); the bottom is knocked off the 'hitsu' ('brush of') character that completes Hokusai's signature (the final downward stroke is curtailed here). Impressions which were printed before this damage occurred (MSU 1998, no. 32; White 1998, no. 8) have continuous blue all the way down the sky, wiped lighter across the middle, so making clear the entire shapes of the cumulonimbus clouds - rather than leaving a wide band of un-inked sky across the centre and thereby losing their tops (as here). These early printings also use two shades of brown for the slopes, rather than brown and orange. Variation is also found in the shape and density of the black shading that rises up the clouds on the right and the green hills on the left. This impression has been trimmed somewhat on all sides.
A strikingly different - and not wholly successful - printing is known with a black outline (Nagata 1990, vol. 2, no. 29, Kanagawa Prefectural Museum). This would seem to be the latest printing from the original blocks. The thick band of black from the level of the lightning downwards is completely wiped away, to reveal silhouetted trees printed from a newly cut block, which fade out into a band of green at the bottom. The sky is printed in purple around the clouds and has a narrow band of yellow at the very top.
In the British Museum collection is another impression of this design, similar in printing to the present one, but with repairs all along the bottom of the sheet (1937.7-10.0120).
'Ukiyo-e taikei, vol. 13: Fugaku sanju-rokkei', Tokyo, Shueisha, 1975 (text by Kobayashi Tadashi), no. 3.
'Meihin soroimono ukiyo-e, vol. 8: Hokusai I', Tokyo, Gyosei, 1991 (text by Nagata Seiji), no. 32.
Julia White, 'et al.', 'Hokusai and Hiroshige: Great Japanese Prints from the James A. Michener Collection, Honolulu Academy of Arts', Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, 1998 (commentaries by Yoko Woodson), no. 8.
Binyon, Laurence. 'A Catalogue of Japanese and Chinese Woodcuts in the British Museum'. London, British Museum, 1916, [Hokusai] no. 98.
The artist imagines Fuji from the west, regarded as the ‘back’ view, on a late afternoon in summer, with the sun casting its shadow on clouds behind it. The ‘white rain’ (haku’u) of the Japanese title means a sudden downpour, and the dramatic flash of lightning on the lower slopes signals a summer storm down at the level of human habitation. The massive scale of the mountain dwarfs even the weather. It is equally monumental in composition as ‘Clear day with a southern breeze’ (cats 52, 53), and Hokusai’s intention may have been to set up a series of contrasts between the two designs: front / back; morning / evening; fair weather / storm.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2001 11 May-29 Jul, London, BM, Japanese Galleries, '100 Views of Mount Fuji'
2017 25 May - 13 Aug, London, BM, G35, Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave
2017 6 Oct - 19 Nov, Osaka, Abeno Harukas Art Museum
2022 16 Apr-12 Jun, Tokyo, Suntory Museum of Art, Hokusai from the British Museum
- Acquisition date
- Registration number