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Mt Fuji from the Offing in Kanagawa – Hokusai

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Here’s Hokusai’s greatest work. His best known. Most ripped-off too!

Alternatively known as “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” (神奈川沖浪裏) this is a marvellous woodblock printing by the wonderful Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760–May 10, 1849)

From around the age of six, I had the habit of sketching from life. I became an artist, and from fifty on began producing works that won some reputation, but nothing I did before the age of seventy was worthy of attention.

At seventy-three, I began to grasp the structures of birds and beasts, insects and fish, and of the way plants grow. If I go on trying, I will surely understand them still better by the time I am eighty-six, so that by ninety I will have penetrated to their essential nature.

At one hundred, I may well have a positively divine understanding of them, while at one hundred and thirty, forty, or more I will have reached the stage where every dot and every stroke I paint will be alive. May Heaven, that grants long life, give me the chance to prove that this is no lie.


Here’s the LIFE magazine list of the 100 people who made the Millennium, ranked in order of importance. Let the debates begin!

86 HOKUSAI 1760-1849

At the age of 74, Hokusai, one of the greatest artists of the millennium, bemoaned his lack of talent. “Of all I drew prior to the age of 70 there is truly nothing of any great note,” he wrote, predicting that “at 100 I shall have become truly marvelous.” The master painter, illustrator and printmaker of the Japanese Ukiyo-e school of art didn’t make it to his century mark, but he did create thousands of treasured images–of landscapes, flora, fauna, historical scenes–including the print series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. His work influenced the French Impressionists, especially Paul Gauguin.

This masterpiece was first published in 1832 (Edo Period) as the first in Hokusai’s majestic print series 36 Views of Mount Fuji and is his most renowned work.

It depicts an enormous wave threatening boats near the Japanese prefecture of Kanagawa; Mount Fuji can be seen in the background. The wave is probably not intended to be a tsunami, but a more normal ocean wave created by the wind.

Like the other prints in the series, it depicts the area around Mount Fuji under particular conditions.

Copies of the print hang at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the British Museum in London, and in Claude Monet’s house in Giverny, France.

The logo for the surf brand Quiksilver is based upon this artwork.

Who shall grapple with lions or wrestle with seraphim?

Even so can the surf come forth in its power to him –

Legion crying to legion, hurled to the steadfast shore;

Rampart answering rampart, where the flame-shaped summits roar.

And I flung me forth at their strength, at their might of motion and sound,

Till the foam-bolts stung my brow and the foam chains ringed me around,

And the hissing ridges ran like dragons driven by gods –

Mad with the battle-cries and their unseen lashes and rods.

– from Beyond the Breakers, by George Sterling

The English translation title of the print “Mt Fuji from the Offing in Kanagawa” does seem a tad awkward and archaic now!

“Offing” is a somewhat obsolete term that means, according to one interpretation, “the part of the visible sea where there is deep water and no need of a pilot; also, distance, or position at a distance, from the shore.” The colloquial English expression “in the offing”, which means “at some time in the near future”, is derived from this usage.

Thanks Tim Eagen

April 26, 2008 Posted by | Hokusai Katsushika, Japan, _ART | Leave a comment

24 Views of Mount Fuji – Hokusai Katsushika

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A wonderful piece from on one of our favourite artists, the magnificent Japanese artist Hokusai Katsushika.

Twenty-four ways of looking at Mt. Fuji. It struck me that it would be good to take one thing in life and regard it from many viewpoints, as a focus for my being, and perhaps as a penance for alternatives missed

– from 24 Views

Hokusai Katsushika was a prolific and influential artist of 19th century Japan, particularly well known for his ukiyo-e woodblock prints.

In 1827 Hokusai began producing his most famous work, the series of prints known as “36 Views of Mount Fuji“. Another 10 prints were later added to the series.

In 1985, Roger Zelazny wrote “24 Views of Mount Fuji, by Hokusai”, for which he won a Hugo award in 1986. The story was inspired by the protean face of the mountains near his Santa Fe home, and on an abridged collection of Hokusai’s prints with which he was familiar. The novella is divided into 24 chapters, each named after one of the prints, and each the setting for the chapter’s events. The effect is a sort of literary pavan; lyrical, graceful, and tragic.

Having read and appreciated the story, Tim Eagen became intensely curious concerning the prints themselves, and resolved to locate as many of them as he could on the internet. After considerable searching, he succeeded in finding all twenty-four prints. These are presented below, along with the titles cum chapter headings.

Click on the small image to view the larger version. The source credits are given at the bottom of this page.

1. Mount Fuji from Owari 2. Mount Fuji from a Tea House at Yoshida 3. Mount Fuji from Hodogaya
4. Mount Fuji from Tamagawa 5. Mount Fuji from Fukagawa in Edo 6. Mount Fuji from Kajikazawa
7. Mount Fuji from the Foot 8. Mount Fuji from Tagonoura 9. Mount Fuji from Naborito
10. Mount Fuji from Ejiri 11. Mount Fuji from Mishima-goe 12. Mount Fuji from Lake Kawaguchi
13. Mount Fuji from Koishikawa in Edo 14. Mount Fuji from Meguro in Edo 15. Mount Fuji from Tsukudajima in Edo
16. Mount Fuji from Umezawa 17. Mount Fuji from Lake Suwa 18. Mount Fuji from the Offing in Kanagawa
19. Mount Fuji from Shichirigahama 20. Mount Fuji from Inume Pass 21. Mount Fuji from the Totomi Mountains
22. Mount Fuji from the Sumida River in Edo 23. Mount Fuji from Edo 24. Mount Fuji in a Summer Storm

Image Credits

Asahi Japan Collectibles Home Page
Images: 1, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 22
This is a commercial page featuring ukiyo-e images by Hiroshige and Hokusai, as well as artifacts and gifts. It contains a lot of information on Japanese arts.

The following sites, no longer active on the web, were also sources from which I obtained images:

NHK’s Digital Art Archive: Ukiyo-e
Images: 2, 3, 5, 7, 12, 16, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24

Selected Works from Hokusai’s 36 Views of Mt Fuji
Images: 6, 15

University of Montreal’s “Estampes Japonaises”
Images: 13, 17, 19

More of Hokusai’s Mount Fuji Series

Tim Eagen

April 26, 2008 Posted by | Hokusai Katsushika, _ART | Leave a comment