VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Under the Wave off Kanagawa, from the Thirty-six Views of Mt Fuji
2008,3008.1
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

This is perhaps the single most famous of Hokusai's woodblock prints - perhaps of all Japanese prints. It belongs to the series 'Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji' (Fugaku sanjûrokkei). The graceful snow-clad mountain stands out unperturbed against the deep blue of the horizon. Yet it is reduced to a tiny hillock compared with the towering strength of the wave which threatens to engulf the struggling boats. Such clever, playful manipulation of the composition is a feature of many of Hokusai's works. This monumental series was the first to exploit the new chemical Berlin blue pigment, which had recently become cheaply available from China. It provided Hokusai with a strong blue for both sky and water and had the added advantage that it did not fade. Hokusai's series was so commercially successful that the publisher, Nishimuraya Eijudô, extended it with another ten prints, printed this time with black instead of blue outlines. Though highly valued today, several thousand impressions were taken from the cherry-wood printing blocks, literally as many as the publisher could sell. This is a particularly fine impression, with the pale pink clouds visible against the sky.

History of the Object
Previously in the collection of Rene Druart.

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Type
Print 
Materials
Paper 
Measurements
Width 37.9 Height 25.8  
Creator name
Katsushika Hokusai 
Creator date
1760-1849 
Where it was made
Edo 
Geography
Japan 
Time period
AD 19th century ~ AD 19th century 
Creation date
1830-1833 
Function
 
Acquisition
Purchased from Israel Goldman with the assistance of The Art Fund in 2008. 
Copyright
Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
 
Museum
British Museum 
Credit line
 

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