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Lightning Below The Summit


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Completed between 1830 and 1833 Katsushika Hokusai’s “Lightning Below The Summit” is a remarkable glimpse of life and elemental energy from Japan’s golden age of isolation. A part of the artist’s series ‘Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji’ – from which his The Great Wave is also taken, this stunning woodblock print shows two dramatic weather formations existing independently in front of the vast height of the mountain. The shimmering mist of the fog juxtaposes the bare, minimal form of the lighting, while the puffy clouds seem to exist in their own independent decorative dimension. Hokusai focused on a fleeting moment, a very brief natural phenomenon: a flash that illuminates the tops of the pine trees, allowing them to stand out from the mist of darkness for a short moment. From the seventeenth century, Japan experienced a period of prosperity, shunning the military aristocracy in favor of an urban bourgeoisie. A new art form emerged; printmaking, and these engravings illustrated the tastes of an emerging class. Perpetually dissatisfied and with his curiosity always alert, Hokusai was interested in all artistic movements in Japan’s golden age of printmaking. He worked mainly creating book illustrations, engravings in color, and creating educational models for the next generation Japanese artists. When Japan opened its doors to the West after its period of isolation, Hokusai’s work, and the work of others, flooded into France and utterly changed the course of art history. It was known as the Japonism movement, and the distinct iconography and stark expressionism influenced artists from Toulouse-Lautrec to Van Gogh.


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