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Hokusai’s (Thirty) Six Views of Mount Fuji

Eastern world

Hokusai’s (Thirty) Six Views of Mount Fuji

Everyone knows The Great Wave off Kanagawa, the print created by the Japanese ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai. But not everyone knows that The Great Wave comes from a series of forty six prints, depicting the views of Mount Fuji from different locations and in various seasons and weather conditions. Actually, at the beginning Hokusai created only 36 prints but the series became so popular that he added another ten. Today we want to show you 6 most interesting (in our opinion of course) prints from the Views of Mount Fuji.

1. The Great Wave off Kanagawa

Katsushika Hokusai, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, c. 1830/33, Art Institute of Chicago

Katsushika Hokusai, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, c. 1830/33, Art Institute of Chicago

In the early nineteenth century, the pigment known as Berlin or Prussian blue (bero) became more widely available and affordable – thanks to it the famous Great Wave  has such vibrant colors. Here Hokusai proved he was a virtuoso of composition. Not only do the surging breakers seem to swamp the boaters, but -to the Japanese eye, accustomed to reading from right to left – the great claw of a wave appears almost to tumble into the viewer’s face.

BTW, Hokusai created the series when he was over 70 years old.

2. South Wind, Clear Sky

Katsushika Hokusai, Southern Wind Clear Morning, c. 1830/33, Indianapolis Museum of Art

In early autumn when the wind is southerly and the sky is clear, the rising sun can turn Mount Fuji red, as we can see in this Ukiyo-e print. Ukiyo-e, meaning “the floating world”, is a genre of Japanese woodblock prints and paintings, principally produced between the 17th and the 20th centuries and featuring motifs of landscapes, tales from history, the Kabuki theater, and pleasure quarters. Around the 1670 the first of the great masters of ukiyo-e, Hishikawa 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-colored prints known as nishiki-e.

3. A Group of Mountaineers

Katsushika Hokusai, A Group of Mountaineers, c. 1830/33, Tokyo Fuji Art Museum

Katsushika Hokusai, A Group of Mountaineers, c. 1830/33, Tokyo Fuji Art Museum

At the same time that Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji was released, many people worshipped Mt. Fuji, and the formation of Fujiko (devotional Fuji confraternities) became popular in the eight hundred-and-eight districts in Edo. In A Group of Mountaineers, the people climbing and praying to Mt. Fuji are depicted.

4. Watermill at Onden

Katsushika Hokusai, Watermill at Onden, c. 1830/33

Katsushika Hokusai, Watermill at Onden, c. 1830/33

Hokusai’s high artistic quality made a great impact on European Impressionist painters. Many artists collected his woodcuts: Degas, Gauguin, Klimt, Franz Marc, August Macke, Manet, and van Gogh included. Also, in the field of music, Debussy, a French composer, drew inspiration from The Great Wave of Kanagawa, and the first edition of La Mer (published in 1905) had on its cover a picture of a wave.

5. Hodogaya on the Tōkaidō

Katsushika Hokusai, Hodogaya on the Tōkaidō, c. 1830/33

Katsushika Hokusai, Hodogaya on the Tōkaidō, c. 1830/33, British Museum

Hodogaya was the fourth post-station on the Tokaido Highway. The wanderer on the far right wears clothes of a monk (‘komuso’) and his face is tilted upwards. The other travellers and the horse seem to be fatigued, the palanquin bearers are resting to wipe a brow and re-tie a sandal. The only person admiring the view of Fuji is the man leading the horse, pointing his herding stick towards the mountain.

6. Goten-yama-hill, Shinagawa on the Tōkaidō

Katsushika Hokusai, Goten-yama_hill, Shinagawa on the Tōkaidō, ca. 1832

Katsushika Hokusai, Goten-yama_hill, Shinagawa on the Tōkaidō, ca. 1832, British Museum

This view of Mount Fuji is made across Sagami Bay, between the trunks of cherry trees that dotted the hills at Goten-yama above Shinagawa, the first post-station on the Tokaido Highway leading south out of Edo. Here samurai and ordinary townspeople alike picnic together under the cherry trees and take rest at temporary tea-stalls. Only a few pay attention to this extraordinary view.

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