Uncharted Territory


RSS     Archives

Global Icon

Hokusai's The Great Wave
A History of the World in 100 Objects,
Mass Production, Mass Persuasion (1780 - 1914 AD)

何回か紹介している大英博物館展―100のモノが語る世界の歴史に取り上げられた北斎のGreat Wave。BBCの番組にも出られていたChristine GuthさんのHokusai's Great Wave: Biography of a Global Iconを読み始めました。ラジオ番組のキャッチで使われていたミュージカル太平洋序曲はYoutubeで見れます。

In the middle of the world we float,
In the middle of the sea.
The realities remain remote
In the middle of the sea.
Kings are burning somewhere,
Wheels are turning somewhere,
Trains are being run,
Wars are being won,
Things are being done
Somewhere out there, not here.
Here we paint screens.
Yes . . . the arrangement of the screens

BBCのサイトでのChristine Guthさんのエッセイの抜粋です。当時の浮世絵はサブカルに近い感じだったことなど、当時の日本の状況を説明してくれています。

Famous for being famous
By Christine Guth, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

I think many people see it as representative of Japan. When you say ‘Great Wave’, you say ‘Oh yes! Japanese art’, but within Japan, what you need to recognise is that within Japan woodblock prints weren’t seen as art they were seen as a popular form of expression and commercial printing. So for a very long time Japanese government officials, Japanese art historians were not happy about the attention that print culture garnered in the West and art historians or the cultured elite wanted Europeans and Americans to look at different kinds of things and not look at this as representative.

I think that one of the things that has all too often been passed over in writing and talking about the Great Wave is what it says about Japan’s connectedness during the 1830s.

It is often argued that Japan was cut off from the world during this period, but that is not in fact the case there was an enormous enthusiasm for things exotic, for things from abroad during this period. Whether things from China or things from Europe. And one of the reasons that Hokusai’s Great Wave became such a success was that it was printed in an exotic new colour that had a saturate hue that was unknown until that time. And this colour was imported and was synthetic and is colour that we now know in English as Prussian blue or Berlin blue, and this says a lot about the way in which Japan was connected through trade to China and to the world beyond.


Hokusai's Great Wave: Biography of a Global Icon
by Christine Guth (Author)

Hokusai's Great Wave, as it is commonly known today, is arguably one of Japan's most successful exports, its commanding cresting profile instantly recognizable no matter how different its representations in media and style. In this richly illustrated and highly original study, Christine Guth examines the iconic wave from its first publication in 1831 through the remarkable range of its articulations, arguing that it has been a site where the tensions, contradictions, and, especially, the productive creativities of the local and the global have been negotiated and expressed. She follows the wave s trajectory across geographies, linking its movements with larger political, economic, technological, and sociocultural developments. Adopting a case study approach, Guth explores issues that map the social life of the iconic wave across time and place, from the initial reception of the woodblock print in Japan, to the image s adaptations as part of international nationalism, its place in American perceptions of Japan, its commercial adoption for lifestyle branding, and finally to its identification as a tsunami, bringing not culture but disaster in its wake.

Wide ranging in scope yet grounded in close readings of disparate iterations of the wave, multidisciplinary and theoretically informed in its approach, Hokusai's Great Wave will change both how we look at this global icon and the way we study the circulation of Japanese prints. This accessible and engagingly written work moves beyond the standard hagiographical approach to recognize, as categories of analysis, historical and geographic contingency as well as visual and technical brilliance. It is a book that will interest students of Japan and its culture and more generally those seeking fresh perspectives on the dynamics of cultural globalization.
70 color illustrations, 5 black and white


Guth, Christine, 2011, Journal Article, Hokusai's Great Waves in Nineteenth-Century Japanese Visual Culture

This article looks at the cultural context in which Hokusai’s now iconic print ‘Under the Wave off Kanagawa’ was produced and consumed to explain how and why it came to be singled out from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, of which it is a part. Its originality lies in going beyond the biographical and connoisseurial approach to examine this woodcut within the maritime turn in visual culture that developed in the early 19th century as both product and producer of Japan’s shifting geopolitical circumstances, and especially its vulnerability to foreign incursions.
Guth’s 12,000-word essay is not only the first extended critical study of the woodcut but also the first to make a serious consideration of the political environment that informed both its creation and changing readings. While it takes Japan from the 1830s to 1860s as its focus, it throws light on the key factors that help to establish this image within the canon of world art. Since its publication, the article has become required reading in university courses on Japanese visual culture.
Guth first presented this material, based on research initiated during a year-long fellowship at the Stanford Humanities Center, in her prestigious three-part 2008 Toshiba Lectures in Japanese Art at SOAS and the British Museum, London, and the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, Norwich. She was also invited to provide a commentary on the woodcut in the 2010 BBC Radio 4 series A History of the World in 100 Objects. The essay forms the basis for the first chapter of her forthcoming sole-author book, The Great Wave: Biography of a Global Icon, which will be published beyond the REF census period.