The Japanese masterpiece, “The Great Wave,” was created by Katsushika Hokusai, when he was approximately 70 years old. It was part of his popular ukiyo-e series “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji,” which was created between 1826 and 1833. The print was made using colour woodblock printing called ukiyo-e. Hokusai ukiyo-e transformed the art form one focused on people, to one that explored landscapes, plants, and animals. Ukiyo-e means “pictures of the floating world” in Japanese. It is a genre of woodblock printing and painting that was popular in Japan from the 17th through 19th centuries.
Making woodblock prints was a three-stage process as follows: (1) The artist would paint the design with ink (2) The design would then be carved onto wooden blocks, and finally (3) Colored ink would be applied to the blocks after which sheets of paper could be pressed on them to print the design. Once the blocks were completed, it was easier to make reproductions of the same design. Outline generally what you see happening in the image Hokusai captures a dramatic moment in his artwork by contrasting a giant and turbulent wave in the foreground about to consume three fishing boats, against the small and stable Mt Fuji in the background.Order now
The boats tumble in submission to the force of the wave. The tiny fishermen in the boats huddle and cling to the sides, as the cusp of the wave curls its claws down upon them. The sky is eerily pale. The white frost of the wave cap mimics the snow covered top on Mount Fuji. The waves are large, towering, turbulent and menacing. They look powerful and heavy and about to come thundering down to consume the three fishing boats. They are dark blue and curl with shades of lighter blue and extend to white frothy wave tips.
They are surrounded by softer sprays of white mist. The power of the waves is captured in the wave caps that look like menacing claws, adding to the impact of the strength and dominant power of the waves. The curling down of the claws makes the waves appear as though they are ready to pluck the fishing boats and their unfortunate sailors out of the sea. Huddled, small, inconsequential, panicked, hopeful, supporting eachother, scared, frightened, clinging, crouched in fear, terror, vulnerable, helpless. The colors and tones are deliberate and intense.
The menacing wave is dark blue and ghostly in colour forming curls of white froth and claws of pale blue and white. The sky is an eerie pale tan colour contrasting against the bold blue of the wave. The white frost of the wave cap mimics the snow covered top on Mount Fuji. The range of colours is limited to reflect nature. The lines of the wave are clear and precise. The colour of the boats is light brown and this color reinforces their insignificance against the bright blues and white of the waves. The fishermen in the boats are dark blue with white heads.
The bubbles of water mist are white and sparkling. The horizon is a muddy brown colour with blurred tones suggesting doom. The wave seems menacing and ghostly. The scene is dramatic with nature’s power being exerted against the vulnerable fishermen. There is an element of apprehension in the capture of the giant powerful and turbulent wave as it curls toward the small, submissive boats. The waves commanding presence in the foreground, dwarfing the peaks of Mount Fuji, highlights the wave’s strength and dominance. The small fishermen are almost defenceless, huddled and clinging to the sides of their boats.
Their anxiety, fear and panic rings out from this artwork. The lines, direction and scale of the artwork creates a sense of movement. Hokusai positions the viewer looking up into the menacing curl of the giant wave. And this is in contrast to the fishermen who turn away and are too terrified to face nature’s fury. This creates a sense of movement of the wave crashing downwards. Additionally, the usually towering Mount Fuji is set in the background, small, motionless and framed by the giant wave in the foreground.
The contrast of Mount Fuji so still in the background highlights the thunderous movement of the wave. The position of Mt Fuji almost in the centre, but perfectly balanced in the frame, and the clear lines of its triangular peak draws the viewers attention to the movement going on around it. The lines are clear, vigorous and bold. This adds to the movement of the artwork. The line curvature of the wave and curls of the cusps, highlights the rise, curl and sweep of the moving wave, creating a sense of movement.