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The Wave from Hokusai

De Golf van Hokusai - Lyklema Fine Art

One of the best-known Japanese prints is The Great Wave by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). He made this work in a series of 36 views of Mount Fuji. Landscapes were a new theme in early 19th century ukiyo-e.

At the beginning of the 19th century, people no longer played the leading role but nature played the leading role in this woodcutting art. The small figures in the boats could be swallowed up at any moment, while the cloudy sky predicts even more disaster. The mountain in the background looks silent. The power of nature versus the fragility of people is compared here. Despite the success of his works, Hokusai died in poverty. One of the prints hangs in the Rijksmuseum. Japanese prints are an art form that is not just exclusive but massive. We talk about an art form, but it is an industry and a trade in which many parties are involved, from paper manufacturers, wood block manufacturers, printers, pigment sellers and the trade itself.

Japan was quite isolated at that time (around 1830), but foreign influences did come in through Dutch trade. This painting has a clear perspective with the mountain itself and a low horizon. Ukiyo-e is a printing art that was invented and perfected as early as the 17th century, during the Edo dynasty and the beginning of Japan. Printing had a great influence on artists in the 19th century. Lautrec, van Goch and Manet, among others, were avid collectors.

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