This work is astonishing for its fantastic composition and powerful brushwork, showing a giant wave crashing over a boat.
The low-angle perspective and shaded waves constitute the key to this work which is one of the foremost masterpieces, and most well known of all the ukiyo-e landscape compositions.
Paralleled in fame "Red Fuji" within the series of "Thirty-six views of Mt. Fuji", is "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" (Kanagawa-oki Naimura).
It astonishes us, first of all, with its fantastic composition and powerful brush work with which the artist depicted, like a close-up snapshot of a camera, a moment of a huge wave falling over a boat. The inconvenient idea, however, is not the primary importance of this print. Its greatness lies in the aesthetic quality. Already some thirty years before, Hokusai had published the seascapes of "Boats Going Through High Waves" and an entirely identical idea and furthermore, with emphatic employment of Western-style representation. These earlier pieces contained sundry additional components around the waves.
In this present print the additional motifs are abbreviated or eliminated, and the Western-style exaggeration has disappeared. Lowered viewpoint and shaded waves constitute the keynote of the composition here. Filtration through artistic purification, as it might be called, is instrumental in this sight. The blue stripes on the inner surface of waves absent in the earlier two. Probably they were improvements after his experiment of high waves in his illustration in the novel "Chinsetsu Yumihariziku".
This print, thus, suggests the result of various elements lurking in its background. The triangular upheaval of wave in the foreground, the large triangle of a high wave in the middle ground, and the small triangle of snow-capped Mt. Fuji in the distance, create a skill full perspective through formation of three similar forms of different dimensions and allocations. The clever compositional plan attests to the artist's well-developed rationalistic observation and technique.
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