About This Artwork

Katsushika Hokusai 葛飾 北斎
Japanese, 1760-1849

Under the Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami ura), also known as the Great Wave, from the series "Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjurokkei)", c. 1830/33

Color woodblock print; oban
25.4 x 37.6 cm (10 x 14 3/4 in.)
Signature: Hokusai aratame Iitsu fude
Publisher: Nishimura-ya Yohachi

Clarence Buckingham Collection, 1925.3245

In the early nineteenth century, the pigment known as Berlin or Prussian blue (bero) became more widely available and affordable, inspiring a new flourishing of landscape imagery in print design that could make the most of the strong color. Produced between the late 1820s and early 1830s, Hokusai’s series of prints studying the ancient pilgrimage site of Mount Fuji is among the most celebrated and majestic art of the nineteenth century. Whether the volcano is visually dominant, as in many of the prints, or reduced in scale, as it is here, the series is a virtuoso display of Hokusai’s compositional skill. With its bold linear design, striking juxtapositions, and careful use of color, The Great Wave is one of the most compelling images of the mountain. Not only do the surging breakers seem to swamp the boaters, but—to the Japanese eye, accustomed to reading from right to left—the great claw of a wave appears almost to tumble into the viewer’s face. Even Mount Fuji appears fragile, about to be engulfed by the uncontrollable energy of the water. This iconic image has been used widely in contemporary designs, ranging from comics and advertisements to book jackets and record covers.

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2013, p. 114.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Publication History

Art Insitute of Chicago: Essential Guide, rev. ed. (Art Institute of Chicago, 2009) p.100.

James N. Wood, The Art Institute of Chicago: The Essential Guide, Revised Edition (Art Institute of Chicago, 2003), p. 86.

Jim Ulak, Japanese Prints (The Art Institute of Chicago, 1995), p. 268.

Ukiyoe taikei, VIII, 29; XIII, I.

Forrer, 1988, p. 264.

Richard Lane, 1989, pp. 189 and 192.

Ownership History

Purchased by Clarence Buckingham in 1905 from Yamanaka and Co. Given to the Art Institute by Kate S. Buckingham.

Interpretive Resources

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