The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai

3 boats, Mt. Fuji and the ferocious curve of the great wave that threatens to consume anything that comes in its way!

These are the essential elements of this  iconic composition titled The Great Wave off Kanagawa by the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai – considered to be a legendary Ukiyo-e artist . This work is from his most famous series called Thirty-Six views of Mount Fuji, circa 1826-33. The interesting element to note here is the contrast between the towering wave and the peak of  Mt. Fuji in the distance. (See the detail in the slideshow above) At 3776 meters, the highest mountain in Japan appears but a small pyramid, while in comparison the wave looks like a tremendous entity bursting with an enormous amount of energy.

At first glance the three boats in the painting go unnoticed. But on closer inspection not only are the boats apparent, but we see the small figures, clutching on to the side of the boat, haplessly trying to navigate the furious waters! Hokusai depicted these fast cargo boats in his composition – bringing the mundane, daily element into the composition among the majestic presence of the mountain and the wave. Looking at the boats, one can immediately see who and what is getting impacted by the roaring water. Without them, would this composition have been the same?

Hokusai’s Wave inspired Claude Debussy to create the composition La Mer. Ironically, a collection of the series (prints) that was on board Costa Concordia (placed in the spa) was lost to the sea in January 2012!

Hema Upadhyay, an artist from India, has created a very interesting rendition of this painting, depicting migrating population making their way to the cities. Watch our video interview with Shireen Gandhy – the Gallery Director & Owner of Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai.

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