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Thursday 15 December 2016

Katsushika Hokusai’s woodblock print, “Mount Fuji seen from the shore”

Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849)
“Mount Fuji seen from the shore” (Kaihin no Fuji), from “One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji” (Fugaku hyakkei) Vol. 3, Edo period, circa 1835-1847
Woodblock print with margins as published.
Size: (sheet) 23.9 x 16.1 cm

Condition: slightly grey and worn impression suggesting that it may have been printed in the later edition of 1860. The right margin has the publication binding holes. The sheet is in near excellent condition.

I am selling this genuine woodcut by Hokusai (albeit an impression from a worn plate) for a total cost of [deleted] at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this original Hokusai print pulled from the original plate, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

After my previous discussion about Paulus Bril’s (c.1553/4–1626) etching celebrating the early European tradition of “Weltlandschaft” (World Landscape), I have decided to find a parallel world in this woodblock print by the legendary Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849).

Like the Weltlandschaft tradition underpinning Bril’s earlier landscapes (viz. portraying ideal landscape synthesising the spirit of the world with dramatic viewpoints, craggy mountains and folk engaged in important duties seen from afar), Hokusai’s print also presents the landscape with reverence. By this, I mean that the scene portrayed is far from a tourist’s snap shot of Mt Fuji observed through a stone arch. This is a view of Mt Fuji mediated through the tradition of Gongshi (spirit stones).

As a brief account of this reverence for seeing and feeling spirit in stone, there are five fundamental principles:

1. “shou” (thinness): structural foundations within the stone that shapes its outer surface. In this print, I see the principle of shou expressed by the small shifts of direction on the surface of the rock that draw attention to the broad form of the rock arch—a bit like how the sagging skin of very elderly folk hangs from their bones and reveals the form of the bones.

2. “zhou” (wrinkles): surface textures arising from how natural forces have shaped the rock. There are a host of names for each wrinkle type deemed desirable (e.g. jiqu zhou [chicken-bone wrinkles], hutao zhou [walnut wrinkles] and heye zhou [lotus-leaf wrinkles][Rosenblum, 2001, p. 143]).

3. “lou” (hollowness): the literal meaning of this term is “to leak” and this notion is all about sensing a larger whole from a small sample. In this print the hole created by the stone arch “talks” to us about what is missing in the rock (i.e. what the rock arch would look like as a whole rock before it turned into an arch).

4. “tou” (penetrated): holes within the rock that give mystery and take the mind to the secret spirit world and life-force within the rock. In the print this hole created by the arch is critical to the meaning of the print as it captures a view of Mt Fuji—a very spiritual place for the Japanese—within it.

5. “qi” (life force): dynamic inner tensions within the stone that give form to its surface. In this print, I see qi expressed in the patterning of shrubbery on the surface of the rock arch in the sense that the patterning is driven by the underlying structural form.

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