Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mt.Fuji
The Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji by Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) was published in ca. 1831 from a prominent printer and publisher, Nishimura Eijudō. The series gained popularity backed by the thriving veneration of Mount Fuji of the time, depicting the mountain from various locations and with illustrations of cultures and customs of the localities. It was originally published as a set of 36 prints, but 10 more designs were added, encouraged by the immense success it enjoyed. This is undoubtedly the most prominent work of Hokusai, highly acclaimed worldwide for the ingenious compositions and impressive color rendering, notably of Berlin Blue. The series includes famous compositions such as the Great Wave off Kanagawa, the South Wind, Clear Sky, and the Rainstorm Beneath the Summit. The complete set of 46 prints are on display, showcasing Hokusai’s genius in his extraordinary depictions of the revered mountain that helped him to establish the genre of ukiyoe landscapes in its own right.
THE GREAT WAVE OFF KANAGAWA
This masterpiece made Hokusai famous as the “painter of waves.” The sea is roaring and the rolling waves are about to collapse any moment. Fishing boats trapped inside the waves are desperately trying to stay balanced. Mt. Fuji appearing behind the rough waves remains calm. This composition epitomizes Hokusai’s extraordinary sense of dramatic composition, conveying formidable power of nature before humans together with the contrast between stillness and dynamism.
THUNDERSTORM BENEATH THE SUMMIT
The foothills of Mt. Fuji are streaked by lightening and blackened by pouring rain. In this print, Hokusai had succeeded in bringing out the sublimity and vigor of Mt. Fuji. In his two most famous woodblock prints, “A Mild Breeze on a Fine Day” and this “Thunderstorm Beneath the Summit,” Hokusai captures different aspects of Mt. Fuji: one is the front view and the other shows the views from the rear of the mountain; one illustrates a morning scene and the other an evening; and a fine weather day and a rain, etc.
UNDER MANNEN-BASHI BRIDGE AT FUKAGAWA
The arched bridge Mannen-bashi spans over the Onagi River, a tributary of Sumida River, seen from the upstream and Mt. Fuji in the distance. Rows of houses on both banks are depicted in perspective and with slight exaggeration, which Hokusai often employs deliberately.
FUJIMIGAHARA IN OWARI PROVINCE
The location of this picture is believed to be present day Fujimichō in Nagoya, the western-most point from which Mt. Fuji could be seen. The geometrical composition is typical of Hokusai, evident in this print as a miniature triangle of Mt. Fuji and a large round frame of a barrel in the making. The humorous expression of the barrel maker is characteristic of the artist’s portrait style which also appears in his third collection of Hokusai Manga.
IN THE MOUNTAINS OF TŌTOUMI PROVINCE
The scene was probably sketched in the deep mountains where the tributaries of the Tenryū and Ōi Rivers originated. It depicts a woodman in the center working on a wooden block diagonally placed in the picture and his family. The bold diagonal division of the frame speaks for Hokusai’s artistic talent.
EJIRI IN SURUGA PROVINCE
Ejiri was a lodging station on the Tōkaidō highway, adjacent to the port of Shimizu, a part of present-day Shizuoka City. The travelers are caught in strong whirlwinds and bewildered, as gusts often blew at the foot of Mt. Fuji. The mountain is sketched only by outline, creating a sense of contrasting stability. The invisible winds are depicted ingeniously by the straw hats and pieces of paper in the air and the trees that resist the force of the blow.
REFLECTION ON THE LAKE AT MISAKA IN KAI PROVINCE
The Misaka Pass along the mountain road linking Kofu and Fuji Yoshida offers a spot from which an unobstructed panoramic view of Lake Kawaguchi and Mt. Fuji can be enjoyed. The print depicts Lake Kawaguchi and Mt. Fuji viewed from the rear (i.e., from Yamanashi side) in summer. Notice the Fuji reflected on the lake is a snowcapped winter mountain, a playful twist by Hokusai.