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Hokusai Under the Wave off Kanagawa

Detailed Description

Under the Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami ura), also known as The Great Wave, from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei), by artist Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese, Tokyo (Edo) 1760–1849 Tokyo (Edo)). Dated sometime between 1829-1833.

Hokusai created a scene in which to frame Mount Fuji. The large waves, about to crush the fishermen in their boats clinging to their oars, appear larger than the mountain. Hokusai may have wished to depict a fear of and respect for the ocean with this play on perspective. Mount Fuji holds religious/sacred significance in Japan.

The Great Wave is best thought of as a large, rogue wave or perhaps as a mythical event, a "yarn" told by sailors. Because of the location of Mount Fuji and the apparent direction the boats are going, the waves appear to be breaking shoreward. Some think of The Great Wave as a tsunami, but tsunami waves tend to be more of a tall tidal bore with no white caps until the tsunami hits the shallows near shore or when the energy of the tsunami bore is concentrated in narrows like harbors. While the real intent and meaning behind Hokosai's Great Wave woodblock print is not known, and while tsunami waves typically do not crest or break and do not have white caps like this, Hokusai's print is nonetheless often used to depict a tsunami.

Check out more: Cartwright, J.H.., Nakamura, H., 2009, What kind of a wave is Hokusai’s Great wave off Kanagawa?: Notes and Records of the Royal Society, London, 17 p., doi: 10.1098/rsnr.2007.0039

Image: CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication


Public Domain.