I am sure you have seen this print somewhere before, after all this is the single most famous ukiyo-e of Hokusai’s woodblock series, perhaps of all Japanese prints. However, are you sure you have seen the real Wave? I´m not saying the one that you have watched over and over in those instant ramen cups in the supermarket, well, that is the Wave, but not the real one. Hokusai´s masterpiece has gone viral over the years, and marketing campaigns are the ones that are promoting this beautiful depiction of Mount Fuji. Still wondering where you saw “The Great Wave”? Keep reading, I´m sure you will remember once you see it.
“The Great Wave,” Katsushika Hokusai’s woodblock print from the early 1830s, may be the most famous artwork in Japanese history, and its popularity isn’t cresting anytime soon.
The image of a wave towering over Mount Fuji is the subject of a new book and recent exhibits in Paris and Berlin. It is on view in a show at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and another major display is expected at the British Museum in 2017. Starting April 5, the piece takes a starring role in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s largest ever exhibition of Japanese prints.
“The Great Wave” has gone viral over time, first circulating the old-fashioned way—via traders and tall ships in the 19th century. Since then, the woodcut has been called an inspiration for Claude Debussy’s orchestral work, “La Mer,” and appears in poetry and prose by Rainer Maria Rilke, Pearl S. Buck and Hari Kunzru. Levi’s and Patagonia used it in marketing campaigns. It has been preserved in cyberspace as a Google Doodle and an emoji.
“The Great Wave”— formally titled “Under the Wave off Kanagawa” from the Hokusai series “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji”—adorns marketing for the Boston show. (…)
The image is a mix of east and west—a blending of techniques that Hokusai picked up from Japanese artists and his own knowledge of European prints. The woodblock depicts Mount Fuji, a hallowed place in Japan, but pushes the peak deep into the distance using western perspective. The wave was printed on Japanese mulberry paper but marked by a color new to Japan—a vibrant Prussian blue created from synthetic dye in Germany.
The work was fairly accessible to the Japanese—one scholar has said it went for the price of a large bowl of noodle soup—while the snobbish view of prints inside the country made it easier for the series to travel abroad.
(You can read the entire article here)