Katsushika Hokusai was born in 1760 inEdo, Japan. He was a Japanese master artist and produced the ukiyo-e1. The ukiyo-e is theJapanese style of woodblock print making. Throughout his life, he took on atleast thirty different names that suited each phase he went through. In 1797,he began going by the name of Katsushika Hokusai.2 He was adopted inchildhood by a prestigious artisan family named Nakajima andbecame interested in drawing when he was five. Hokusai is said to have served in his youth as clerkin a lending bookshop. As a teenager, he was apprenticed to a wood-blockengraver, which later influenced him as an artist.
Hokusaimarried sometime in his mid-20s. In the influence of family life, one can seehis designs tended to turn from prints of actors and women to historical,landscape subjects, and a bit of children. He himself had a daughter whoinherited his artistic talent, Eijo.There even is an anime about her.3 Hokusai was quite fond ofdisplaying his artistic prowess in public. He would produce huge paintings ofmythological figures before festival crowds and was once even summoned to showhis artistic skills before the shogun. Hokusai’s daily routine consisted ofrising early, painting throughout the day, and until well after dark.Hokusai was interested in oblique angles,contrasts of near and far, and contrasts of manmade and the natural.
These canbe seen in Under the Wave off Kanagawa through the placementof the large wave in the foreground that dwarfs the small mountain in thedistance, as well as having men and boats among the powerful waves. His is mostfamously known for his woodblock printthe Great Wave off Kanagawa. This is from his “Thirty-Six Views ofMount Fuji” series.
He learned aboutWestern prints in Japan through Dutch trade. From theDutch artwork Hokusai became interested in linear perspective.4 Subsequently, Hokusaicreated a Japanese variant of linear perspective. The influence of Dutch artcan also be seen in his use of a low horizon line and in use of the distinctiveEuropean color, Prussian blue.
Visual AnalysisThe Great Wave Off Kanagawa draws yourattention first to the great, large wave. It takes up most of the page andseems to engulf Mount Fuji. There are three fishing boats struggling to fightthe wave as they are being drawn in. However, two boats are close to beingflipped over as one is closest to the Great Wave and passes its side and theother one surrounded by a smaller wave. The last boat is directly under the pathof Great Wave.
There seems to be another, possibly as tall, wave like the GreatWave on the right side of the print. Though only half is shown.Hokusai’s wood block print gives a veryominous feel from the pale-yellow sky that looks like fumes of smoke. It alsohas smoky hints once it is closer to earth around the mountain. The waves aretwo toned with a dark blue and a paler blue to give them depth, but are mainlydark blue. There is a great deal of white in the waves as they are churning alot and adding air into the waves. Hokusai shades the white of the waves with ababy blue for a bit of depth.
He also portrays the waves to be splashing andyou can see a little rain of white to convey that. Mount Fuji blends in with the waves. Thisis due to its purply-blue color. Also, there is a boat blocking the view of themountain so it is hard to distinguish the mountain from a wave. Mount Fuji seemsto be tiny compared to the Great Wave which is emphasizing how monstrous of awave it was.
In reality, Mount Fuji is Japan’s tallest peak at 3,776 meters.This puts in perspective to how large the wave might have been assuming it wasat least the same height.1 ukiyo-e means “pictures of thefloating world”. 2 Lane, Richard.”Hokusai.” Encyclopædia Britannica.
November 15, 2017. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hokusai.3 It is http://www.watchanimemovie.com/?s=Miss+Hokusaiin case you wanted to see4 Lane “Hokusai.”Encyclopædia Britannica