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The Great Wave off Kanagawa Analysis
Dawit Abeza
The Great Wave off Kanagawa Analysis

The Great Wave

Under the Wave off Kanagawa, commonly known as The Great Wave, by Katsushika Hokusai, has become one of the most famous works of art in the world—and maybe the most iconic piece of Japanese art.

Thousands of copies of this print were immediately printed and sold for a low price at first. Although it was created during a period when Japanese trade was severely restricted, Hokusai's print shows the influence of Dutch painting and served as an inspiration to many European artists working later in the nineteenth century.

WHY IS THE GREAT WAVE OFF KANAGAWA SO FAMOUS?

Analysis of the Great Wave off Kanagawa

The Great Wave off Kanagawa

The Great Wave off Kanagawa, often known as The Great Wave or simply The Wave, is a Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai's landscape-format linen print. It is Hokusai's most renowned work, and one of the most recognizable works of Japanese art in the world. It was published between 1829 and 1833.

The image represents the area around Mount Fuji during specific weather circumstances, such as a typhoon with a massive wave threatening fishing boats off Kanagawa's coast (the present-day city of Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture). While the wave is occasionally mistaken for a tsunami, it is most likely a massive rogue wave, all of which is captured in the shadow of Mount Fuji in the backdrop. The curved line of the waves demonstrates the basic principles of design. Sharp lines are employed at the tip of the waves where water is going to overwhelm the helpless fisherman on their boats, enhancing and amplifying the threat of the waves.

This artwork has an asymmetrical composition, with the waves taking up nearly the entire image, ensuring that they dominate the composition, emphasizing the threat and danger of the rough, crashing waves, as well as providing a sense of movement, allowing the audience to feel how helpless the fishermen were in the face of such massive waves. Pattern, Emphasis, and Proportion are all present in the artwork and are particularly visible in the waves. The photos are serene in general, but the topic or backdrop is grim, with the fisherman fighting for their life against all obstacles.

The artist used muted and soothing colors, with no reds or harsh colors, but the dominance of chilly colors like dark blue produces a feeling of coldness and helplessness, while the presence of white might be taken as hope that the fisherman will survive the storm.

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What is it about The Great Wave that makes it so popular?

The use of Prussian blue and bright composition, as well as the dynamic scenario represented in the painting, are two of the reasons why the Great Wave is so popular. Except for the Great Wave, there is just one painting in the entire series that depicts some dynamic activity that has stalled.

The village of Sekiya is located on the Sumida River. Three horses race through a short route with Mount Fuji in the backdrop in this picture. This scene is lively and tense as if something major is about to occur, such as a conflict or a brawl. This reminds me a lot of The Great Wave. T

he painting represents a dynamic motion that has been paused enabling us to see the stunning and dramatic viewpoint. Three little boats are ready to be devoured by a big, large wave with white, foamy claws. This is what's on the painting's right side. Three boats are headed towards this massive wave on the left side. They're about to collide with it, and there's something odd about the people who live in the small boats.

They don't display any signs of dread on their faces or bodies. They quietly approach the wave, seemingly unaffected by its presence. Could it be that these fishermen are accustomed to these conditions? Is it possible that they are terrified but don't want to express it? No one knows since time has been stopped. For us, the viewers, the time has been paused. Hokusai has picked a dramatic moment when the cusp of this massive wave is directly above Mount Fuji in the background.

When time moves again, the anticipation of what is going to happen. Mount Fuji is being battered by a tidal surge. With the rich, blue body and the white top, the hues are strikingly comparable to those of the waves. The mountain melts and mixes with the water in such a wonderful way.

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Who was Katsushika Hokusai?

Katsushika Hokusai was a Japanese painter who lived in the 16th century. Hokusai was born in the Japanese city of Edo (now Tokyo) in the year 1760. During the artist's lifetime, he went under a variety of titles before settling on Hokusai in 1797. Western prints that came to Japan via Dutch trade were discovered by Hokusai.

Hokusai became fascinated with linear perspective after seeing Dutch art. Hokusai developed a Japanese version of linear perspective as a result. The use of a low horizon line and the characteristic European color, Prussian blue, show the influence of Dutch painting. Hokusai was fascinated by oblique angles, contrasts of near and far, and manufactured and natural differences.

The contrast of the big wave in the foreground dwarfing the small mountain in the distance, as well as the inclusion of the men and boats amidst the tremendous waves, may be observed in Under the Wave off Kanagawa.

What does the Great Wave painting represent?

The Great Wave can be seen as a symbol of a significant change in Japanese society, a transition that brings the presence of foreign influences from the sea's uncertainty, in contrast to Mount Fuji's firmness and calm, which has long been seen as the established emblem for Japan's soul.

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