Great Wave

3 November 2011 – 8 January 2012

Exhibition closed

Room 3

The Asahi Shimbun Displays
Objects in focus

Supported by

PLEASE NOTE: The British Museum's new Hokusai exhibition, Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave, runs from 25 May 2017 – 13 August 2017.

See a masterpiece of Japanese art, one of the most iconic images in
the world.

Under the Wave, off Kanagawa (Kanagawa oki nami-ura), also known as ‘The Great Wave’, is surely the most famous of all Japanese prints. It was designed by artist Katsushika Hokusai in around 1831 and issued as a popular colour woodblock print.

Although ‘The Great Wave’ is often seen as typically Japanese, in fact it mixes influences from both east and west. Hokusai’s imagination had been captured in his youth by his discovery of European-style perspective. Now, aged about seventy, he adapted European perspective in a very inventive way, playing games in the image between the relative sizes of the large storm wave in the foreground and tiny Mount Fuji in the distance.

Japanese prints such as 'The Great Wave' influenced Western artists such as Whistler, van Gogh and Monet. During the 20th century and beyond, the image has spread even more widely into popular culture and has been frequently replicated and adapted. It is even painted as a mural on a house in Camberwell, South London.

This is a unique opportunity to delve into the story behind this iconic work, learn how Hokusai made ‘The Great Wave’, and discover how the print has become a truly global inspiration.


Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849), Under the Wave off Kanagawa (detail)

Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849), Under the Wave off Kanagawa (detail). Colour woodblock print. Japan, Edo period, c. 1831. Acquired with the assistance of The Art Fund.

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'The Great Wave' product range
A selection of items inspired by the print.