The Great Wave Off Kanagawa Analysis

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Katsushika Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa is one of the most iconic works in the history of Japanese art. Presumably created in Japan around 1829-1832, the woodblock print was part of the Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series which featured ravishing sceneries of Mount Fuji. Being the first print in the series, The Great Wave off Kanagawa was a phenomenal success. Hence, Hokusai added ten more designs into the collection. Before the emergence of Japanese printmakers such as Katsushika Hokusai, woodblock printing technique has been around for centuries and used mainly for printing of texts. One of the printing styles, Ukiyo-e, was used by Japanese printmakers in the Edo period. The subject matter revolved around popular culture, such…show more content…
However, in The Great Wave off Kanagawa, the size of Mount Fuji is insignificant as compared to the giant wave. Known to be the highest mountain of Japan, the artistic choice of making Mount Fuji smaller could be Hokusai’s intention to show the contrast between reality and perception. From one angle, the wave appears as though it is about to strike Mount Fuji at any moment but from another perspective, Mount Fuji has an image of solidness and stability. The selection of portraying this climactic moment creates a sense of suspense as the fate of the fishermen remains unknown. What is unique about The Great Wave off Kanagawa is the meaning that each object holds and how Hokusai juxtaposes it with our own assumptions. By turning the serenity of the sea into a seemingly catastrophic wave, it symbolizes the formidable force of nature and the fragility of human life (Hiroe…show more content…
The bold move to cast away traditional subjects of Ukiyo-e saw a breakthrough in Japanese art. Inspired by Western perspective, Hokusai employed spatial illusion, dramatic lighting, and perception in his landscape prints (Guth 114). Towards the end of 1790s, the presence of Mount Fuji became one of his trademarks due to the frequent use of the subject. It was not unusual for poets or artists to include the panoramic view of Mount Fuji in their works. However, Hokusai’s fascination with the mountain has been linked to his own beliefs about immortality and the origins of Mount Fuji. With reference to One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji, Hokusai wrote that he would live beyond 100 years and reach the highest realm of art (Katsushika, Hokusai. and Henry D. Smith 7). The reason behind this thinking could be due to the fame that he was only receiving at the age of seventy. Even though Hokusai started his profession at a young age, he was hardly recognized as an artist till the release of Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. When Hokusai died in 1849, he has changed his name for more than 30 times, partly due to a change of artistic style and the need to rejuvenate his works with a new

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