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The great wave off Kanagawa

Katsushika Hokusai • Painting, 1832, 25.7×37.9 cm
Digital copy: 2.2 MB
3859 × 2594 px • JPEG
37.9 × 25.7 cm • 256 dpi
65.3 × 43.9 cm • 150 dpi
32.7 × 22.0 cm • 300 dpi
Digital copy is a high resolution file, downloaded by the artist or artist's representative. The price also includes the right for a single reproduction of the artwork in digital or printed form.
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Marina
Style of art: Ukiyo-e
Technique: Writing ink
Materials: Paper
Date of creation: 1832
Size: 25.7×37.9 cm
Artwork in selections: 160 selections
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Exhibitions history

Description of the artwork «The great wave off Kanagawa»

"A big wave in Kanagawa"is not only one of the most famous engravings of Hokusai, but also one of the most recognizable images of Japanese culture in General. This is the first piece of "36 views of Fuji" series is so popular that prints of it done as long as wooden plates from which they were made, began to wear out. Presumably, with the original boards Hokusai was printed about 5,000 copies.

Of course, not all of them survived to our time: paper less durable than canvas and many prints were lost as a result of earthquakes, fires, wars and other misfortunes. And the surviving leaves take pride of place in collections around the world: the best museums of the USA, National gallery of Victoria in Australia and even the house-Museum of Claude Monet in Giverny.

From West to East

It is no secret that the Japanese prints became a kind of foremother of such European art movements as art Nouveau and impressionism. But there were feedback: even long before the first Impressionists opened the source of inspirationin the engravings of Hokusai, the future master have enriched their knowledge in painting according to Western samples that I got Japan contraband routes, because all manifestations of European culture in this country was strictly forbidden.

But thanks to the Dutch merchants in the hands of a young Hokusai still got etchings of the Western masters and he studied chiaroscuro, realism, and landscape perspective. He was destined to become a revolutionary in his field. The fact that landscapes were not a subject of the image in the Japanese art of woodcuts: they mostly wrote with brushes on silk or paper.

Moreover, traditionally, the engravings covered only the scenes from the life of Japanese nobility, and the depiction of peasant life was not part of the prerogatives of masters. Therefore, paradoxically, "a Big wave in Kanagawa" – the most that neither is a Japanese engraving which sees her Western audience – created under significant influence of European culture, without which it just would not appear the representatives of one of the least respected classes in the hierarchy of Japanese society – the fishermen.

The ninth wave

Together with the growing popularity of Hokusai prints multiplied and the different versions of its interpretation. The most obvious of them is the master represented the powerlessness and insignificance of man against the uncontrollable elements. From this angle it is considered that the fishermen on the woodcuts are sailing towards certain death and the author captured the unfortunate for a moment before their boats smashed to splinters. In more General interpretation, the fishermen are the symbol of humanity as a whole.

But there are opposite point of view. According to the Russian culturologist-japonica Evgeny Steiner, Western critics "radically wrong" perceive the meaning of the engravings: "We must start with the fact that in the Japanese art movement in the picture goes from right to left. Accordingly, the fishing boats are a active start, they move and penetrate into the wave, and pliable amorphous beginning, and some have already passed through her".

Further, through complex calculations based on what hieroglyphs signs the name of mount Fuji on his work Hokusai (it turns out that the Japanese spelling is not so clear) and their relationship with key concepts of Buddhist philosophy, Steiner concludes: "A picture is a visual representation of the Buddhist picture of the world – the world as the wheel of the Dharma, ever changing mobile element. A person in such a world picture is not fling sliver, dying from fear and despair, but a natural element of the impermanence of nature. Fishermen Hokusai respectfully bow to the relics of disaster; they seem to be, leaning and sinking into inaction, but in fact they are just trying to fit in a situation and come out victorious. That is, the picture harmonious and flexible-flexible relationship. "Big wave" can be called the epitome of the Japanese idea of the philosophy of life – on the fast, frail and beautiful changeability of the world (Ukiyo)".

Cosmic harmony

Anyway, Hokusai inexplicably managed to create a graphically not so intricate, but unprecedented cited and reproduced work of art. Where are not only seen "a Big wave in Kanagawa"! She rises and in the form of sculptureson one of the streets of Dresden. Present along with Fuji on logo well-known manufacturer of sports clothing Quicksilver. Found on playing cards for Board games, puzzles, the coin of the Republic of Fiji, which will be released in a limited edition in 2017, on the covers of several music groups. Even in the Russian fairy tale there was a placeJapanese great wave!

The phenomenon of the popularity of the iconic prints of Hokusai devoted one of the editions of the BBC documentary series "the Private life of masterpieces". What is so irresistibly beckons us in the image of the "Big wave" has for almost two centuries? Perhaps the secret to use the wizard of the Golden section, which is based on the composition of the woodcut. And even not one but two. The snow-capped peak of mount Fuji is located at the intersection of imaginary lines of the Golden section, and the wave itself is twisted into an almost perfect Golden spiral.

Author: Natalia Azarenka