Interesting facts about Kanagawa's Great Wave and Hokusai

Interesting facts about Kanagawa's Great Wave and Hokusai

The Great Wave off Kanagawa, often known as The Great Wave or simply The Wave, is a Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hokusai's woodblock print. It was the first print of Hokusai's series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, which was published probably between 1829 and 1833 in the late Edo period.

While Mount Fuji looms in the backdrop, a big wave threatens three boats off the coast of Sagami Bay (Kanagawa Prefecture). The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai masterfully distills the majesty of the ocean into a two-dimensional painting that is both deceptively simple and fascinating. But you might be surprised by what lurks beneath this revered 19th-century masterpiece.


The Great Wave is the first of a sequence of waves.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa is part of a print series called Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji and is not a stand-alone piece. The Great Wave is said to be a rogue wave that catches the fishermen off guard, although it is generally referred to be a tsunami wave.


Hokusai inspired Apple Wave Emoji and he wasn't just known as Hokusai.

Throughout his career, Hokusai went by several other names, including Shunro, Sori, Kako, Taito, Gakyojin, Iitsu, and Manji. "I used to call myself Hokusai, but today I sign myself "The Old Man Mad about Drawing," he said near the end of his life.


Hokusai was a Buddhist monk.

Hokusai was a Buddhist who followed the Nichiren school, and it is thought that his recurrent depictions of Mount Fuji, as well as the name Hokusai, are linked to religious meaning. In 1804, he also used a broom and buckets of ink to make a 600ft (180m) image of Buddhist priest Daruma during a festival in Tokyo.

He intended to live until he was 110 years old.

The date of Hokusai's birth is thought to be October 30, 1760, although even he wasn't sure! Although he was 70 years old when he painted his landmark series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, he was confident that his best work would not be seen until he was 110.

"You will see genuine progress when I am 80." I'll have pierced deep into the mystery of existence itself by the time I'm 90. I'll be a fantastic artist when I'm 100. Everything I make, whether it's a dot or a line, will come to life as never before at 110. I swear to keep my word to those of you who will live as long as I do. I'm writing this in my senior years."


It was dismissed as fake art by Japanese politicians and art historians.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa gained such acclaim that it became the world's defining representation of Japanese art and culture. "In Japan, woodblock prints were not seen as art, they were seen as a popular form of expression and commercial printing," says art historian Christine Guth of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. Woodblock prints, which were once only used for Buddhist text, had become synonymous with poetry and romance novel pictures.

As a result, officials in Japan's government and art historians were less than pleased that such a supposedly lowbrow art form had come to characterize them.

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He created 30,000 works of art.

Hokusai amassed an astonishing 30,000 pieces of work throughout his life, but regrettably, a fire in 1839 destroyed many of them.

His work impacted a lot of western artists.

Hokusai's work was recognized by his European contemporaries when the borders opened in the 1850s; Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Toulouse-Lautrec became collectors, while Vincent Van Gogh's work was significantly affected. After viewing The Great Wave, Claude Debussy was inspired to create La mer.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa has been absorbed by current Western culture and may be seen on t-shirts, tattoos, emojis, contemporary artworks, beer advertising, and book covers, among other places.

The print is signed twice in a way.

A box with writing inside and out may be found in the print's upper left corner. Hokusai carved the piece's name, as well as its place in the Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji series, into the box.

But to the left of it, he wrote "Hokusai aratame Iitsu hitsu," which means "From Hokusai's brush, who changed his name to Iitsu." Hokusai changed his name more than 30 times over his career. These many designations are now used to designate the various chapters of his book.


The boats seen in the work are oshiokuri-bune.

Swift fishing boats that deliver fish from Izu and Bs to markets in Tokyo Bay, historically known as Edo Bay. In 2009, historians Julyan H.E. Cartwright and Hisami Nakamura estimated that the diving breaker is between 32 and 39 feet (9.7 and 11.8 meters) long, based on the size of the oshiokuri-bune boats.

He helped coin the term "manga" and was one of the first to utilize it.

Between 1814 and 1819, he developed the Hokusai Manga illustrated series, which featured hilarious illustrations for his students and other aspiring painters to emulate. It went on to become a best-seller and one of the first documented usage of the term manga – which is unconnected to the modern comic book version!

Hokusai's daughter was a painter as well.

Eijo (art name I Hokusai's daughter was also a talented artist who moved in with her father in his senior years to work alongside him. Miss Hokusai, a manga series and anime film, is based on her life.

The Great Wave wasn't the only wave that happened.

Hokusai painted waves at Chshi, Shimsa Province, Kajikazawa, Kai Province, and Ono No Takamura throughout his career.


Even though it is called after a wave, it also conceals a mountain.

Take a look to the right of the center. What you may have mistaken for another cresting wave is Japan's highest peak, Mount Fuji, which is snow-capped. Mount Fuji, is revered as a holy symbol of Japanese identity.

The dark tones surrounding Mount Fuji appear to indicate that the scene is early in the morning, while the sun rises behind the viewer, lighting the white pinnacle of Japan's highest mountain.

The Japanese printmaker's signature may be discovered in the upper left-hand corner.

"From the brush of Hokusai, who changed his name to Iitsu," it reads.


It sparked the creation of music.

On the cover of the 1905 edition's sheet music, French composer Claude Debussy revealed the source of inspiration for his symphonic composition The Sea (La Mer).

There, a sketch based on The Great Wave off Kanagawa provided music fans with a visual representation of his symphonic sketches. You can hear it being performed in the video above.

The Great Wave was one of several ukiyo-e printmakers' works that were sold by the equivalent of a noodle soup to a growing Japanese middle class.

It is estimated that 5,000 to 8,000 prints of "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" were produced. Before creating "The Great Wave off Kanagawa," Hokusai created two prints, "Kanagawa-Oki Honmoku no zu" (about 1803) and "Oshiokuri Hato Tsusen No Zu" (approximately 1805), that provided as inspiration for the renowned picture.


The Great Wave of Kanagawa has been exhibited in museums all around the world.

There are a lot of Great Waves in this woodblock print because it's a woodblock print. A print can be found in the public collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the British Museum in London, the Art Institute of Chicago, LACMA in Los Angeles, Melbourne's National Gallery of Victoria, and Claude Monet's famous home and garden.

When Hokusai (1760-1849) created his most famous print, he was already 60 years old.

Hokusai was always interested by the movement of water, and he spent most of his career exploring the subject. Though Hokusai was also a painter, he is primarily renowned for his woodblock prints from the Edo period (1603-1868 in Japan).

Producing The Great Wave off Kanagawa series was a wise business decision.

Many people see Mount Fuji as sacred, and it has developed a cult following. So it was a no-brainer to create a series of portrait prints that could be mass-produced and marketed at low prices. However, as tourism to Japan grew, the prints resurfaced as part of a burgeoning souvenir industry, particularly if they represented the country's gorgeous mountain.


Japan slowed the spread of the Wave around the world.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa was most likely printed between 1829 and 1832, although Japan was not engaging in cultural exchanges with other countries at the period, with the exception of trade with China and Korea, which was rigorously regulated, and the Dutch, who were only allowed to operate in Nagasaki.

It would take nearly 30 years for political pressure to force Japan to open its ports and exports to other countries. A wave of Japanese prints swept across Europe in 1859, capturing the attention of artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and Claude Monet.

The style of The Great Wave off Kanagawa is not entirely Japanese.

Hokusai studied European works in addition to Japanese works and was notably influenced by Dutch art's use of linear perspective. The low horizon line is his own variation on this motif, while the European influence is visible in his choice of Prussian blue, a prominent color on the continent at the period.


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