October 1, 2017
Katusushika Hokusai (1760-1849), Behind the Waves off Kanagawa, From Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, c.1830, woodcut, 10 x 15 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchase/gift of the Mahonri M. Young Estate, 1959.
Renowned Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai was born on this day in 1760. This print comes from Hokusai’s most celebrated series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. Inspired by the artist’s interest in travel and the landscape surrounding Mt. Fuji, this series elevated Hokusai to international fame during his lifetime.
In this iconic image, three open boats crowded with men toss helplessly in a raging storm. The billowing sea sweeps upward in an arc to form the “great wave,” whose foaming crest reaches out with menacing claws. In the distance, the snow-capped silhouette of Mount Fuji rises serenely above the unfolding drama of human vulnerability in the face of nature’s power. The low horizon line heightens the excitement of the scene, as it places the viewer down among the swells with the boats.