In addition to works by many other great works by artists of the Edo and Meiji periods:
Or he just liked this new blue colour that was now available, he needed blue for his waves, and we shouldn't read more into it than that.
"As much as the wave portends instability and danger, it also suggests possibility and adventure."
To some viewers, perhaps. But the wording makes it sound like this was the original artist's idea - and of this we have no idea.
Hokusai was one of the first Japanese printmakers to boldly embrace the colour, a decision that would have major implications in the world of art. Using it extensively in his series Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji (1830), of which the Great Wave was the first, the pigment especially lent itself to expressing both depth in water and distance, crucial atmospheric qualities to render land and seascapes.
Hokusai drew influence from a particular “Rangakusha” (scholar of Dutch texts) painter named Shiba Kokan, who experimented with European principles of composition. In The Great Wave, Hokusai abandoned traditional Japanese isometric view, where motifs were scaled according to importance, and instead adopted the dynamic style of Western perspective featuring intersecting lines of sight.
In short: the work itself incorporates deep influences from European art. Ergo, it's pretty standard art criticism to assume that the choice of materials and colors were also chosen deliberately.
Choosing a pigment for its color is not the same as choosing it "just for kicks". The entire purpose of a pigment is to create color!
This is not really an uncommon occurrence; artists choose materials for their visual appearance and symbolic meaning all the time. Klimt's use of gold leaf is a similar example.
Klimt's use of gold was inspired by a trip he had made to Italy in 1903. When he visited Ravenna he saw the Byzantine mosaics in the Church of San Vitale. For Klimt, the flatness of the mosaics and their lack of perspective and depth only enhanced their golden brilliance, and he started to make unprecedented use of gold and silver leaf in his own work
Similarly, I agree that linking Hokusai’s use of a new blue to a particular will of representing a changing Japanese society, is a big overreach without other corroborating evidence. It makes much more sense that he was simply an artist who was still at the peak of his powers and enjoyed innovating into his late years. It’s like aged architects embracing new materials when they become available - not because they represent this or that, but simply because they work better and open new possibilities.
Even the fact that a Japanist artist decided to look to Prussia for a certain color could suggest that Japan, or at least Hokusai, was opening up to the world, and to globalism and industrialism.
I like to remember James Joyce's words in Ulysses: "The supreme question about a work of art is out of how deep a life does it spring."
While I love Hokusai's art, this article does not explain why the Great Wave mystifies art lovers nor how it does so for generations.
You can talk about an artist, his tools and techniques, you can talk about the historical context in which a work is first received, and you can track how the work has influenced future generations of artists, these are all things that the article touches upon. But to try and explain why a particular work is great is a fools errand. It's there in the work. Just look at it. It explains itself.
He did a whole series on his own copy of the Great Wave.
If you were to, instead, say “Is mystification incompatible with pricing schedules?” no one will have benefited.
So, put simply, “What part confuses you?” is the question.
I was watching David Bull, the Canadian-turned-ukiyo-e carver lamenting that the printer he wanted to produce his prints was busy printing some new Yoshida Toshi prints for the late artists family from the artist's original wood blocks.
I had no idea that you could get prints made from original blocks — and, when I tracked them down, for a few hundred U.S. dollars.
I ordered a print for my wife for Christmas last year (this one: https://www.teamwakon.com/products/yoshida-toshi-hyoroku)
In the emails I got from the studio in Japan they wanted to know how they could spread these prints to more people — to keep this art form alive.
If you've watched enough David Bull on YouTube (the Bob Ross of ukiyo-e carving) you'll hear of his storied journey from being a young, enthusiastic Canadian begging an audience with a touring company of Japanese masters, the sneering reception he is often met with as he tries to excel in their craft and finally his "arrival" when he dedicates a decade of his life to creating a series of 100 prints.
And with all his YouTube exposure, all the videos he has created on how to approach and eventually master the craft, his Twitch streaming... the old masters came to him and said, "Thank you, David-san, you are doing what we should have been doing."
Or so I paraphrase....
Wish it were available in a higher resolution.
Hiroshige also has many great woodblock prints in the same era.
Supposedly in Japan(ese), people interpret things right-to-left, and so if one wants to interpret this painting as the artist did natively, it should be looked at coming from the right?