The Great Wave off Kanagawa
On plates, t-shirts, ties, socks and even on the facade of residential buildings. “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” has long since become one of the most iconic works of art in the world. The engraving is in the MET in New York (Metropolitan Museum of Art), although it is not currently on display.
Part of its popularity lies in the modernity of its technique, the artist's use of color and the mysterious ways in which the proportion of the elements intertwine in its 37 centimeters wide (x 25 cm high).
Katsushika Hokusai's impressive composition was made when he was 70 years old, and is part of the series “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji” (which are in fact 46 woodcuts) published around 1830 in Japan. From his legacy and influence on other artists, it is known that this wood engraving inspired La Mer (The Sea) by Debussy and Der Berg (The Mountain) by Rilke. The museum's description of the work is summarized as follows: “...Hokusai cleverly played with perspective to make Japan's largest mountain look like a small triangular mound within the hollow of the wave's crest. The artist became famous for his landscapes created with a palette of indigo and Prussian blue that he imported from the West.”
Influential for the impressionists
The presentation in Europe of 'The Great Wave' occurred at the 1867 World's Fair in Paris, and its impact was revolutionary. He profoundly motivated the French Impressionist movement, which in turn shaped the course of European modernism, the artistic and philosophical movement that would define the early 20th century.
In a letter to his brother in 1888, Vincent Van Gogh comments: "Hokusai's great wave makes you scream (I didn't know one could be so terrifying with blue and green"), but in his case with his lines, his drawing? You say to yourself: these waves are claws, the ship is caught in them, you can feel it."
The engraving, which today can be found to give life to any space by simply placing “Poster of the Great Wave” or “ Poster of the Great Wave of Kanagawa ” on the Internet, also seems to be a prodigy of symbolic symmetry. Several studies seem to confirm that Hokusai used the golden section and the Fibonacci sequence to organize the elements of the print in such a way that, subconsciously, the viewer feels an irresistible attraction to the painting. Interestingly, of all the series created by Hokusai, this was not the most popular depiction in Japan. This title corresponded for years to “Red Fuji”, due to the spiritual reverence towards the sacred mountain.
According to experts, it is not a tsunami "It is an image of a giant, wandering or monster wave, a pyramidal wave. They are waves that are generated by superposition: the sum of many existing waves, crests upon crests."
Thus, what Hokusai drew is a natural phenomenon, infusing the image with extraordinary drama and scale, and creating one of the best representations of the power of the sea in the history of art.