The set of "Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji" (Fugaku Sanjurokkei) is a magnificent work of Hokusai in his late years at about the beginning of the Tempo era (1830-1844). It marks an epoch in his career in art, and is a monumental works in the history of Japanese landscape prints. On the part of Hokusai it was the culmination of his enduring efforts to master Japanese, Chinese and Western art techniques, which he synthesized here within the realm of Easter-style representation. At the same time it was the first group of Japanese prints in which the requirements of landscape art were truly realised. Recognised by everyone as the finest in this set, is the "Gaifu Kaisei (literally meaning " Breeze of May and Bright Sky") reproduced here.
The composition consists solely of the three main elements without any superfluous addition: Mt. Fuji soaring high into the sky, with its ridges showing rhythmic undulation; the spacious wooded field at its foot, depicted symbolically by "lichen spots" method; and the sky that occupies almost half of the entire sight. The various impressions we receive from the holy mountain are splendidly condensed here. The peak, moved a little to the right of the centre, displays its dynamic outline running obliquely across the canvas. The mountain, the spreading skirt and the sky are composed of simple colour planes but are remarkably expressive of the effect bulk, space and depth. Behind the artist's Eastern-style linear presentation lies his mastery of rationalistic Western observation, while his full experience in analysis and synthesis of colours has resulted in the successful treatment of colour values for stratified clouds. Even a touch of plain-airism may be felt from the white clouds, afloat in the blue sky alive with fresh breeze of May. It is indeed a wonderfully accurate representation of the complex aspects of Nature, which is achieved through just necessary and sufficient lines and colours.
This print popularly known, after the reddish brown colour of the mountain, as the "Red Fuji". In certain regions near Mt. Fuji, the exposed surface of the mountain occasionally appears red with reflection of morning or evening glow. Some explain that Hokusai tried here to show this phenomenon.
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