Bavarian State Library Acquires Katsushika Hokusai's Iconic Artwork 'The Great Wave

Tuesday, August 29, 2023
Bavarian State Library Acquires Katsushika Hokusai's Iconic Artwork 'The Great Wave

The Bavarian State Library has recently acquired one of the world's most renowned artworks: Katsushika Hokusai's "The Great Wave" (1760 – 1849). The original title of the woodblock print is "Under the Wave off Kanagawa," and it was created by Hokusai between 1830 and 1832.

This masterpiece is part of his famous woodblock print series known as the "Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji." The library was able to secure the print for a sum in the lower seven figures from a private collection. The artwork marks the culmination of a series of Hokusai acquisitions made by the library in recent months.

"The Great Wave" is an art icon, globally famous for its motif and multifaceted interpretations. In the background, the sacred Mount Fuji stands tall, while in the foreground, an enormous wave appears to break over fishing boats. The depiction has been interpreted as embodying both the beauty and destructive power of nature, a metaphor for the transience of human life, and a symbol of the West's influence on Japan.

"The Great Wave" stands as a testament to Hokusai's artistic mastery. It has inspired artists of Impressionism, Japonism, and various modern art movements. Today, it is not only Japan's most recognized artwork but also a global icon. A Google search for "Great Wave of Kanagawa" yields around 12.3 million results. It has become ingrained in popular culture, appearing as emojis, in advertisements, and as merchandise.

Art technological examinations conducted at the Bavarian State Library's Institute of Preservation and Restoration have confirmed that the newly acquired woodblock print is an early, exceptionally well-preserved impression from the original printing plates made in 1830/32. This acquisition will be a highlight of the Bavarian State Library's annual exhibition planned for 2025, dedicated to the collection of Japanese woodblock prints.

Markus Blume, Bavaria's Minister of Art, emphasizes: "Once again, a success for the Bavarian State Library: With the acquisition of Katsushika Hokusai's 'Great Wave,' the impressive collection of Japanese art gains another jewel. I am very pleased that we have succeeded in bringing this high-caliber print to Bavaria. As a result, Munich is among the few places in Germany that possess such brilliant pieces by this world-renowned master."

Image : "The Great Wave," a woodblock print by Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849), 1830/32 | © BSB/Res/4 L.jap. K 408

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