Katsushika Hokusai "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" from 36 Views of Mount Fuji

Katsushika Hokusai “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” from 36 Views of Mount Fuji

Does this wave look familiar? It is probably the most famous and extraordinary of all Japanese art, created as a woodblock print almost 200 years ago.  Today we see it everywhere, printed on T-shirts, calendars, coffee mugs. This image has power.

The wave is a menacing one. It dominates the entire rectangle as it towers over 3 small boats caught in the swell. Look closely and you see the sailors hunkering down. Two shades of blue form a curving “c” shape, while the white and ice blue foam branches out like sharpened claws in preparation for destruction.

Peacefully and solidly Mount Fuji sits in the distance.  The stillness of the far-off mountain emphasizes the turbulent danger of life on the sea. By describing a wave as much larger than the mountain we instinctively feel just how unpredictable, untamable and dominant Nature can be.

I realized some time ago that this work is a key inspiration for my own wave paintings. Click here to have a look.


Very dramatically and clearly, the sea reminds us that it is not Man but Nature that is in charge.

Until next time,


This month I will donate 10% of my sales of paintings or prints to East End Hospice.  They are an exceptional organization of caring and skilled people that support so many of us when a loved one is very sick and near death. You can learn about their services here: www.eeh.org



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