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IMAGE: Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (drawing by Hokusai, 1760-1849)
Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (富嶽三十六景, Hepburn: Fugaku Sanjūrokkei) is a series of landscape prints by the Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hokusai (1760–1849). The series depicts Mount Fuji from different locations and in various seasons and weather conditions. Despite its name, it actually consists of 46 prints, with 10 of them being added after the initial publication.
The series was produced from c. 1830 to 1832, when Hokusai was in his seventies and at the height of his career, and published by Nishimura Yohachi. Among the prints are three of Hokusai's most famous: The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Fine Wind, Clear Morning, and Thunderstorm Beneath the Summit. The lesser-known Kajikazawa in Kai Province is also considered one of the series' best works. The Thirty-six Views has been described as the artist's "indisputable colour-print masterpiece".
Mount Fuji is a popular subject for Japanese art due to its cultural and religious significance. This belief can be traced to The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, where a goddess deposits the elixir of life on the peak. As the historian Henry Smith explains, "Thus from an early time, Mt. Fuji was seen as the source of the secret of immortality, a tradition that was at the heart of Hokusai's own obsession with the mountain."
The most famous single image from the series is widely known in English as The Great Wave off Kanagawa. It depicts three boats being threatened by a large wave while Mount Fuji rises in the background. While sometimes assumed to be a tsunami, the wave is more likely to be an exceptionally large storm wave.
Each of the images was made through a process whereby an image drawn on paper was used to guide the carving of a wood block. This block was then covered with ink and applied to paper to create the image (see Woodblock printing in Japan for further details). The complexity of Hokusai's images includes the wide range of colors he used, which required the use of a separate block for each color appearing in the image.
While Hokusai's Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji is the most famous ukiyo-e series to focus on Mount Fuji, there are several other works with the same subject, including Hiroshige's series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji and Hokusai's subsequent book One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji. From c. 1889 to 1892, the series of Thirty-six Bizarre Selections of Transformation, the parody of number 36, was produced by Yoshitoshi, and published by Sasaki Toyokichi.
The French artist Henri Rivière (1864–1951) published the set of color lithographs "Thirty-six views of the Tour Eiffel" in 1902, inspired by the seminal print set of Hokusai, one of the many influences of Japanese art on late 19th century and early 20th century French art (Japonism, known as "Japonisme" in French).