Template:Artwork The Great Wave off Kanagawa (神奈川沖浪裏 Kanagawa Oki Nami Ura?, lit. "Under a Wave off Kanagawa"), also known as The Great Wave or simply The Wave, is a woodblock print by the Japanese artist Hokusai. An example of ukiyo-e art, it was published sometime between 1830 and 1833[1] (during the Edo Period) as the first in Hokusai's series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei (富嶽三十六景?)), and is his most famous work. This particular woodblock is one of the most recognized works of Japanese art in the world. It depicts an enormous wave threatening boats near the Japanese prefecture of Kanagawa. While sometimes assumed to be a tsunami, the wave is, as the picture's title notes, more likely to be a large okinami lit. "wave of the open sea." As in all the prints in the series, it depicts the area around Mount Fuji under particular conditions, and the mountain itself appears in the background.

Copies of the print are in many Western collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the British Museum in London, and in Claude Monet's house in Giverny, France.


Ukiyo-e art

Main article: Ukiyo-e
File:Moronobu b-w shunga.jpg

Ukiyo-e (浮世絵?, lit. Pictures of the Floating World) is a Japanese print technique, which was very popular during the Edo period. The technique of printing from blocks of wood was introduced to Japan in the 8th century from China and was used principally for the illustration of Buddhist texts.[2] From the 17th century the technique began to be used to in the illustration of poems and romances.[2] It was this period that really saw the rise of the style known as ukiyo-e, which reflected the lives and interests of the lowest classes of society: merchants, artists and rōnin, who were developing their own art and literature in urban areas such as Edo (today's Tokyo), Osaka and Sakai, in a movement which was later called ukiyo, the floating world.[3] It was the novelist Asai Ryōi who in 1661 defined the movement in his book Ukiyo-monogatari: "living only for the moment, savouring the moon, the snow, the cherries in flower and the leaves of the maple la luna, singing songs, drinking sake and enjoying simply floating, indifferent to the prospect of impending poverty, optimistic and carefree, like a pumpkin dragged along by the current of the river."[4]

File:'Courtesan Playing the Samisen' by Isoda Koryusai, c. 1785.jpg

Thanks to movements such as the ukiyo literature and the prints, the populace began to have more contact with artistic movements. Around the middle of the 17th century the artists began to reflect what was happening in the pleasure districts, kabuki, festivals and on journeys. The latter gave birth to guidebooks which described the highlights of both the cities and the countryside.[3]

Around 1670 the first of the great masters of ukiyo-e, Hishikawa Moronobu, appeared.[3] Moronobu began to produce prints on a single sheet showing flowers, birds, female forms and erotic scenes of a type known as shunga. This type of print was produced in black ink on white paper, and the artist could later add different colours by hand. By the end of the 18th century the techniques had been developed to allow printing of multi-coloured prints[2] known as nishiki-e.[5]


File:Ukiyo-e dsc04680.jpg

Ukiyo-e pictures (called nikuhitsu ukiyo-e in Japanese), were single works which the painter would produce with brushes directly onto paper or silk. In these paintings it is possible to get a far greater appreciation of the lines, form and colour than in the simple preparatory sketches which the artists produced for the engravings.[6] Afterwards the artist (eshi), would take the work to a horishi, or engraver, who would attach the painting to a panel of wood (usually cherry),[5] and then carefully carve it away to form a relief of the lines of the image.[7] Finally, with all the necessary plates (usually one for each colour),[5] a surishi or printer would produce the print by placing the printing paper on each plate consecutively[6] The impression was produced by rubbing an implement called a baren over the backs of the sheets.[8] This system could produce tonal variations in the prints.[2] There could be a great number of impressions produced, sometimes thousands, before the plates wore out.[5]

Because of the nature of the production process, the final work was the result of a collaboration in which the painter generally did not participate in the production of the prints.[6]

Even though no law of intellectual property existed in Japan before the Meiji era, there was still a sense of ownership and rights with respect to the plates (known as zōhan) from which the prints were produced. Rather than belonging to the artist, the plates were considered the property of the hanmoto (publisher) or honya (publisher/bookseller) who could do with them as he wished. In some cases the plates were sold or transferred to other publishers, in which case they became known as kyūhan.[9]


Main article: Hokusai
File:Hokusai portrait.jpg
File:Portada 36 vistas del monte Fuji.jpg

Hokusai was born in 1760, in Katsushika,a district in the east of Edo (now Tokyo). His birth name was Tokitarō,[10] and he was the son of a mirror maker to the shōgun. As he was never recognised for the purposes of inheritance, it is probable that his mother was a concubine.[11]

He started painting a six and at twelve his father sent him to work a booksellers. At sixteen, he was apprenticed as an engraver and spent three years learning the trade. At the same time he began to produce his own illustrations. At eighteen he was accepted as an apprentice to the artist Katsukawa Shunshō, one of the foremost ukiyo-e artists of the time. After a year, his master gave him the name Shunrō, the name he used to sign his first works in 1779.[12]

Shunshō died in 1793, so by himself Hokusai began to study distinct Japanese and Chinese styles and some Dutch and French painting. During this period he mainly concentrated on producing surimono, or New Year's cards, and advertisements, scenes of daily life and landscapes .[13] In 1800 he published Famous Views of the Eastern Capital and Eight views of Edo, and also began to accept students. It was during this period that he began to use the name Hokusai;[13] he used more than 30 different pseudonyms during his life.[11]

In 1804 he became famous as an artist when, during a festival in Tokyo, he completed a 240m² painting[10] of a Buddhist monk named Daruma. Soon afterwards he appeared before the shōgun Tokugawa Ienari when he won a talent competition against an artist working the traditional Chinese style. Three years later he began work illustrating three books of the novelist Takizawa Bakin, with whom he argued. In 1812, the precarious economic situation forced him to publish a manual, Quick Lessons in Simplified Drawing and to travel to Nagoya and Kyoto to try to sign up students. In 1814 he published the first of fifteen volumes of sketches, entitled Manga which included things that interested him such as people, animals and the Budda. During the last years of the 1820s he published his famous Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji which proved so popular that he later had to add a further ten prints.[14]

Later works included Unusual Views of Celebrated Bridges in the Provinces, A Tour of the Waterfalls of the Provinces and One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji.[15] In 1839, just as his work started to be eclipsed by that of Andō Hiroshige, his studio burned down and most of his work was destroyed. He died at the age of 89,[13] in 1849.[16]

Some years before his death is reported to have stated:

  1. REDIRECT Template:Block quote



This impression is of the yoko-e type, in landscape, and was produced to the ōban size, 25 centimetres high by 37 wide .[17]

The landscape consists of three elements: the sea whipped up by a storm, three boats and a mountain. The composition is complemented by the signature which stands out in the upper left-hand corner.

Copies and derivative works

Like other well known Japanese prints, the Great Wave has been frequently copied using the same techniques, as well as reproduced by photo-mechanical means. These copies are often confused with the authentic original print.[citation needed]

The print is one of the most reproduced artworks in the world, and was one of the subjects of the BBC documentary series, "The Private Life of a Masterpiece", which detailed the fascination surrounding the work in the East and West, its influence, and the artist's insights into a number of different areas, as revealed through the piece.[18]

The print is the subject of episode 93 of the radio series A History of the World in 100 Objects, to be broadcast in September 2010.[19]


  1. British Museum. "British Museum". Retrieved 2010-07-19. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Script error
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 (ed.). "A HISTORY OF THE UKIYO-E WOODBLOCK PRINT". Retrieved 2010-07-05. 
  4. Script error
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 "Woodblock Prints in the Ukiyo-e Style". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 2010-07-05. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Masterpieces from the Ota Memorial museum of Art Paintings and Japanese prints". Musée Guimet. 2005. Retrieved 2010-07-05. 
  7. Script error
  8. Script error
  9. "Viewing Japanese Prints: What Is an Original Woodblock Print?". Viewing Japanese Prints. Retrieved 2010-07-06. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Katsushika Hokusai".  Text "accessdate 2010-07-07" ignored (help)
  11. 11.0 11.1 Script error
  12. Script error
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Script error
  14. Script error.
  15. Script error.
  16. Script error
  17. "Katsushika Hokusai: The Great Wave at Kanagawa". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 2010-07-07. 
  18. "'The Great Wave' by Hokusai". 2004-04-17. Retrieved 2010-07-04. 
  19. "A History of the World in 100 Objects - Hokusai's 'The Great Wave'". Retrieved 2010-07-04. 

External links


ar:الموجة الكبيرة في كاناغاواfa:موج بزرگ کاناگاواit:La grande onda di Kanagawa he:הגל הגדול בסמוך לקאנאגאווה nl:De grote golf van Kanagawa nds-nl:Kanagawa oki nami uraru:Большая волна в Канагаве zh:神奈川海浪裏

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.