Hokusai’s ‘Great Wave’, the most iconic image in Japanese art – is setting some eye popping records at auction. Recently, an early-original Great Wave sold at Christies for a whopping $2.8million. That is almost double the previous sale from 2022, which was $1.5 million. That $1.5million sales was already up around 50%. So, the sales just keep on setting records for Hokusai’s most iconic piece of art. But, what is driving this continued up tick in price?
Hokusai’s Great Wave is one of the most iconic and recognized works of Japanese art, and it continues to set records at auctions for a number of reasons:
- Rarity: The Great Wave is a woodblock print, which means that it was created by carving an image into a wooden block, applying ink to the block, and then pressing the block onto paper. This process resulted in a limited number of prints, and it’s estimated that only a few thousand copies of the Great Wave were made during Hokusai’s lifetime.
- Historical significance: The Great Wave is part of Hokusai’s series of prints titled “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji,” which was created during a time when Japan was beginning to open up to the rest of the world after centuries of isolation. The series was a celebration of Japan’s natural beauty and cultural heritage, and it had a significant impact on the Western art world.
- Artistic merit: The Great Wave is a masterpiece of composition, color, and technique. Hokusai’s use of contrasting colors and bold lines create a dynamic and dramatic image that captures the power and beauty of the ocean. It’s a work of art that continues to captivate and inspire people around the world.
- Popularity: The Great Wave has become an icon of Japanese art and culture, and it’s been reproduced in countless forms, from t-shirts to coffee mugs. Its popularity has helped to drive up its value at auctions, as collectors and art enthusiasts seek to own a piece of this iconic artwork.
It is no wonder that Hokusai’s Great Wave is so popular. Hokusai and other Edo-era artists were inspiring the best Impressionists since Japonisme entered Western Europe in the late 19th Century. Van Gogh, Monet, Klimt, and countless others got swept up in the beauty, elegance, and charm of Japonisme style. Kimonos were featured in paintings, objects d’art of Japanese variety, and even paintings were copied of Japanese artists.
Van Gogh was particularly captivated by Japanese art. Vincent Van Gogh actually copied a number of pieces of Japanese art by Hiroshige (think cherry blossoms, and Edo bridge); and additionally, it is said that Van Gogh gained inspiration for his famous Starry Night (stop by Moma in NYC to see it in person!) by seeing, and possibly owning, one of Hokusa’s famous ‘Great Wave’ prints.