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Hokusai is considered one of the great masters of Japanese chromoxilography. He helped to give a new dimension to Ukiyo-e painting and made landscapes an independent and recognised genre, just as he did with paintings of flowers and birds. Hokusai is a multifaceted artist who not only covered the entire range of Ukiyo-e (single pictures, surimono, books of illustrations and anecdotes, illustrations of poems and historic narratives, erotic books, paintings and drawings), he also tried Chinese painting, the art of illustration (particularly in novels), manga sketch books, pipe designs, religious architecture, painting temples and even improvisations in public, putting art onto the stage.
Throughout his work, he used different styles to reflect the full breadth of Eastern Asia’s imaginative repertoire. His impressive artistic output includes more than 30,000 pictures, as well as 500 illustrations for books. His work was characterised by daring combinations of colours, occasionally somewhat Westernised, the atypical use of perspectives and the naturalness of his depictions.
His subject matters were broad in their range: from xylographs of landscapes, animals and spirits, people’s daily lives and mythological scenes, to female portraits, burlesque caricatures and images of bordellos, as well as landscapes in miniature and panoramas using eggs, bottles and fingers as pictorial instruments.
The most well-known of his series, widely recognised as the pinnacle of Japanese landscape painting, are the Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji, and the three-volume series One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji. These prints show panoramic views of the mountain from different points (such as Shichirigahama, Tsukudajima and countless others), at different times of the day and in different seasons. No two views are alike.
The Great Wave off Kanagawa shows a view from the high sea towards dry land. It is one of the masterpieces of the famous Three Views of Mount Fuji (together with South Wind at Clear Dawn and Thunderstorm at the Foot of the Mountain). Having experimented in works such as Two Small Fishing Boats and Woodcutters on the Open Sea off Kanagawa, in The Great Wave off Kanagawa he returns to the oban yoko-e format. By depicting the giant waves toying with the small boats and the crest of the wave about to break over the sailors, we feel the violence of nature that human strength cannot compete against. In the midst of the tempest, the figure of Mount Fuji is visible. Despite its size, it is majestically imposing, even from a distance.

Gabriele Fahr-Becker. Japanese Prints. Ed. Taschen. Cologne. 2002
www.katsushikahokusai.org


 
 
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KATSUSSHIKA HOKUSAI. 1760-1849
26.1*38.1. Chromoxilography
36 VIEWS OF MOUNT FUJI. THE GREAT WAVE OF KANAGAWA. 1831-1834.
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