Katsushika Hokusai’s work of art titled “The Great Wave off Shore at Kanagawa” is off his woodblock print paintings is contained in the Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. This woodblock artwork belongs to the Edo period. The substances of the paintings are highly visual, and visual language has been used to define the scenario in the painting. The view of Mount Fuji is distinct in the background of the canvas, and the background of the painting demonstrates a powerful imagery of the power of nature. Waves are shown crashing against two fishing boats (Dewitte, Larmann, and Shields).
One would never fail to examine the three essential elements of the paintings namely the colliding waves, the two boats of the fishermen and the high mountain in the background. These three elements are too obvious and, therefore, attract the viewers’ attention towards them. The Mount Fuji is depicted in the background but is the central tying force that creates the intensity in the painting (Dewitte, Larmann, and Shields).
Three principles of art, unity, variety and balance has been used in this painting, and these three principals have clearly reflects from the paintings. The balance of using color while constructing the waves is not only a demonstration of balance but also of unity. It is usually not easy to maintain balance when the artist uses multicolor in a single canvas, but this painting does not exhibit any imbalance. The proposition of space allocated to the background, to the waves and the boats is realistically balanced giving the viewer a sense of reality out of the painting.
The usage of multi-color in the canvas brings variety to the painting making the boats, the background mountain and the giant waves very distinct and separable. The three principles are used when the artist constructs the image of boats moving along with the waves and the waves striking against the boats. The principles are dexterous used to show the waves bending over the boats as if it is going to cover the boats or to kiss the boat (Dewitte, Larmann, and Shields).
The artwork has historic importance because people of Japan consider the Mount Fuji as a sacred mountain (Tyrrell). Therefore, there is the reflection of culture and religious theme in the painting. In the early time, the Mount Fuji was considered as the spring of immortality (Dewitte, Larmann and Shields).
The artist has used a wide range of colors in his painting to construct the imagery. The three principles of art have been vividly reflected in his dexterity to use the color in the canvas. There is a sense of unity and harmony in the usage of color constructing the painting too close to nature. The artist uses the linear as well as non-linear mechanism in his painting to show the imagery of giant waves striking against the waves.
It is believed that the construction of the painting is involved very hard-working in the sense of using circles and triangles and geometry. Furthermore, the artist went the process of using multi-color woodblock print, and that is created out of ink as well as color on the paper. The geometric shape and the use of ruler are a highly significant process of the painting to control and regulate the lines precisely (Dewitte, Larmann and Shields 57). In other words, the patterns of the paintings have been controlled and regulated by geometric instruments to make the painting effective and to bring preciseness into the lines (Dewitte, Larmann, and Shields).
In addition to above, the painting shows that the boats as well as the boatmen are going with the waves and there is not the slightest hint of the boatmen fighting the waves to save their lives. The boatmen seem to be ready to drown in the water because they are totally stuck into the big waves and there is no sign of their escape. The theme of this painting is very dark in this sense that it depicts the death scenario of the boatmen.
The boatmen are going to drown in the sea. The tsunami is on its ways to pour all water into the boats and the staggering boats will finally cover by the powerful waves, it will lead the boatmen to death. The visual imagery is on its height, if one sees the painting from the thematic point of view. How far the visual imagery is effective in constructing the themes in the painting should be observed (Dewitte, Larmann and Shields).
Hokusai’s artwork seems to have a special position in the long history of the Japanese artwork and his artistic influence has been reflected into other artists such as Hermann Obrist. Obrist uses almost the same patterns in his artworks as that of the Hokusai's (Tyrrell). The thematic patterns of his paintings are more close to the themes of the paintings of Hokusai. The visual language especially, the usage of geometric shapes relates to the canvas of Hokusai (Dewitte, Larmann, and Shields). Overall, it could be stated that the selected work of Katsushika Hokusai is a masterpiece that is reflective of the central theme that he followed in his artwork and one could relate to the perfection that he has depicted in this piece through careful alignment and placement of the three elements that he wished to show to the audiences.
Dewitte, Debra. J, Ralph. M Larmann and M. Kathryn Shields. Gateways to Art: Understanding the Visual Arts. London: Thames & Hudson, 2015. Print.
Tyrrell, Katherine. "The story of The Great Wave Off Kanagawa." March 13 2011. Web. 24 June 2015 <http://art-landscape.blogspot.com/2011/03/story-of-great-wave-off-kanagawa.html>.