Understating the unsayable

Engraved in about 1831, as one page of a 13-volume sketch book, this famous image sits in a series entitled ‘Thirty six views of Mount Fuji’. Although the Mount is there, our eye is drawn elsewhere, of course – to the massive wave and the tiny boats. In this, Japanese artist Hokusai broke with tradition.


Hokusai: The Great Wave off Kanagawa (image:creative commons)

He also broke with tradition in this and his other works by depicting the ordinary man, rather than the nobility. Look carefully and you will see nineteen little heads of the fishermen in this picture. As you look, remember the ordinary people overwhelmed by yesterday’s great wave in Japan, and pray…