An Overview of The Great Wave, Japan’s Most Well-Known Painting  

One of the most iconic works of Japanese art in the entire world is The Great Wave off Kanagawa, often referred to as The Great Wave. The dynamic and commanding image One of the finest Japanese painters, woodblock printmakers, and book illustrators, Hokusai Katsushika (1760–1849), is best known for his painting The Great Wave (Kanagawa Oki Nami Ura).

The Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, a collection of Japanese woodblock prints that includes The Great Wave, was produced about 1831. Gian Carlo Calza, an Italian professor of East Asian art, wrote a book titled Hokusai (2004) that provides an outline of Hokusai’s career and life along with a broad overview of his works.

The compilation of monographs by eminent Western and Japanese experts demonstrates extensive study and acute insight into current Hokusai studies, while the numerous illustrations—over 700 in total—allow viewers to delve into the captivating world of the artist.   

The stretched wave that is going to shatter with the smash of its claw-like peak is the painting’s most striking element. Prussian Blue, a stunning dark blue pigment utilized by Hokusai, was a brand-new substance at the time that was brought from England via China. The wave is ready to hit the ships as if it were a huge monster, one that appears to represent both the might of nature and the frailty of people.     

Hokusai used geometrical language to represent the waves and the remote Mount Fuji in the painting. In Hokusai’s Mount Fuji: The Complete Views in Colour, Bibliothèque Nationale de France curator Jocelyn Bouquillard discussed the artist’s progression in landscape prints, technical proficiency, and creative processes.

The book makes several claims on how Japanese culture and historical occurrences inspired Hokusai’s works as well as how he has been seen globally by the Western art community. A thorough understanding of Hokusai’s work may be attained with the help of this educational book.

The Great Wave

The little woodblock print, measuring 39 by 26 cm, depicts two opposing facets of reality. The waves in the front and Mount Fuji in the distance are emblems selected to convey the unpredictable nature of life as well as a perspectives effect, a European-style approach he had very creatively adopted. The emblem of Japan and a hallowed object of devotion, Mount Fuji, in contrast, represents serenity and eternity and has great significance in Japanese culture.     

The Great Wave

In his 2009 book Hokusai, Edmond De Goncourt explores how Hokusai’s singular aesthetic style has impacted European painters from the middle of the 19th century. The Great Wave inspired a wide range of artists as prints started to spread extensively throughout Europe which includes French impressionist musician Claude Debussy and Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh.  

Japan had cut off communication with the outside world by the year 1639, and it was banned to interact with Western culture. Thankfully, this masterpiece—which was created amid Japan’s isolation—can now be recognized and enjoyed in galleries across the globe. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the British Museum in London, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the National Library of France all have copies of the print in their collections.