There’s a curious thing about Katsushika Hokusai’s Under the Wave off Kanagawa – the renowned Japanese woodblock print that has come to be known, simply, as The Great Wave. Although the composition is dominated by a monstrous ridge of saltwater, which rises from the ocean like the Leviathan, the “star” of the picture is, in fact, the distant, snow-capped peak of Mt Fuji, visible on the horizon.
“The sea is churning up, and everything is in flux,” explains Timothy Clark, the curator of Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave, an exhibition opening at the British Museum next week. “But Mt Fuji, which is a deity in Japanese religious belief, is the solid centre – it’s the fulcrum. Once you notice it, the foam coming down from the wave starts to look like snow falling on top of the mountain. The perspective is very playful.” Yet, since Hokusai’s print was first issued, probably in 1831, the human drama...
Register for free and access one Premium article per week
Enjoy unlimited access to Premium articles with a subscription
- Subscriber-only events and experiences
- Access Premium articles on our mobile app
30-day free trial
then only £2 per week