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KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)
A PRIVATE COLLECTION OF PRINTS FORMED IN THE 1900S
KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

In The Well of the Great Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami ura)

Details
KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)
In The Well of the Great Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami ura)
From the series Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjurokkei)
Woodblock print, signed Hokusai aratame Iitsu hitsu [Brush of Iitsu, changed from Hokusai]
Published by Nishimuraya Yohachi (Eijudo)
Late 1831
Horizontal oban: 25.4 x 37.2 cm. (10 x 14 5/8 in.)

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Lot Essay

The 'Great Wave' towers up and crests over, caught by the artist in a moment of monumental power and energy. The claws created by the wave's crest reach over and sprinkle spray. The displaced water creates, for a brief moment, a deep well revealing to us the snow-capped sacred peak of Mount Fuji in the distance below. Three skiffs (oshiokuri) are heading away from Edo (Tokyo), speeding to meet fishermen with fresh catches of fish, which they would return to the capital to sell in the markets. The oarsmen bend low in their boats, straining against the force of the ocean. The 'Great Wave' and 'Red Fuji' of the same series are the most famous prints from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjurokkei) which despite its title, comprised forty-six prints in total designed by Hokusai, and published by Nishimuraya Yohachi between 1831 and 1833. The set proved so successful that several editions were printed, which accounts for the variations in colouration when comparing different examples of this print. No other Japanese print has taken on an iconic status internationally as the 'Great Wave'. Frequently reproduced, it is incorporated into an assortment of modern design such as mobile phone cases, laptop covers, T-shirts, book cover illustrations, and advertising. It seems likely that there are various reasons for this - the perfect balance of the composition, the way in which the wave seems real, but perhaps overall the simple yet universally understood concept of the struggle of man against the monumental forces of nature.

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