Painting review

I am no arts specialist, but we had to write a review of a painting in class. Since I chose The Great Wave by Hokusai, I thought I would post it here.


The Great Wave Off Kanagawa is one of the most famous paintings from Japan. It was woodblock printed by the artist Hokusai between 1830 and 1833, during the Edo era. This technique is typical of the ukiyoe genre, which literally means “pictures of the floating world”, and was considered as the modern style of painting during its time. The Wave is the first of a long series of paintings, which all include a view of Mount Fuji, Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. The painting is ostensibly simple and can be divided into three different parts: The mountain, the boats and the waves caused by a storm on the sea.

Mount Fuji has always been a symbol of beauty and has been considered holy by plenty of Japanese civilizations through the ages. It is no wonder that several artists, including painters and writers, got inspired by this enormous creation of nature. Its size in this picture make it seem like a detail. However, the mountain is crucial to this scenery, and this is why; First, it is the only visible land behind those high waves and situated right in the middle of the hollow formed by the sea. This accentuates the beauty and greatness of Mount Fuji. Secondly, the amount of snow on the peak implies the cold context of the picture and is enough to give you a shiver just by watching the poor men on the sea. Although very light, the colors in the sky create a perfect balance with the depth of the waters.

The three boats and the men on them are the elements that make the scenery so lively. This is just a picture, and yet, we can feel the movement and the passionate anger of the sea, the supposed cold and fear in front of the great wave. The fishermen bring a traditional touch into this modern painting for its period.

The sea is indeed drawn in a modern style. The shades of blue and the accentuated contouring of the waves make the painting so unique and alive, especially compared to Hokusai’s other views of the mountain. The foam formed by the waves looks like claws wanting to grab Mount Fuji.

Finally, we can tell that the strength of the Great Wave Off Kanagawa resides in its astonishing colors and breathtaking scenery. We understand without doubt why it made his work so famous and popular.


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