Katsushika Hokusai is considered one of the greatest artists in Japanese history, and one of the important masters of the Japanese wood-block print. Hokusai’s most famous work is the series “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji,” created between 1830 and 1832, when the artist was over seventy years of age. This brilliant series actually consists of forty-six views of the well-known mountain: the extra ten scenes were added by Hokusai to the initial thirty-six views. The ingenuity of artistic expression and the astonishing variety of vantage points from which Mount Fuji is viewed are a testament to Hokusai’s creativity.
Mount Fuji, known as “Fuji-san,” is the highest mountain in Japan, with a height of 12,385 feet. Once an active volcano, its last great eruption was in 1707. Well before Hokusai’s time, Mount Fuji had been worshipped as a sacred mountain, and in his day it was a destination for pilgrims from all over Japan.
While known for his novel and dynamic compositions, Hokusai’s greatest strength was undoubtedly his remarkable draftsmanship. As a colorist, he was capable of being both bold and sensitive, and much of his success depended on his judicious combination of exceptional drawing and dazzling color. Here, the mountain is shown with clear skies at its summit and a thunderstorm near its base. The combination of the elegant sloping sides of the volcano and the sharp, jagged lines of lightning at the bottom results in an image of great simplicity and visual force.