A Moment in Art History Video: The Great Wave off Kanagawa – How Much Influence Can a Simple Woodblock Print have on World Culture?

Today we’ll be looking at The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Japanese woodblock print artist Hokusai. The piece started showing up all over the world in the late 19th century, and it has become a major cultural icon since then.

Artwork in the background on this video:

Ink and watercolors on ricepaper by Karen Jensen: https://pinetop.xanadugallery.com/collections/karen-kurka-jensen

Memory Horse by John Stebila: https://pinetop.xanadugallery.com/collections/john-stebila

Landscape with Canoe by Lucy Dickens: https://pinetop.xanadugallery.com/collections/lucy-dickens

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.


  1. Love your art history presentations!!! Can’t wait to see your gallery in person sometime soon!!!

  2. I did see a print of this at a show in San Francisco. It’s one of my favorite woodcuts. I have the tee-shirt and socks and notebook. The balance of calm and drama is amazing.

  3. Thanks Jason. I have seen this at the Met, NY. Also saw an absolutely wonderful exhibition at NY’s Japan Society of Hasegawa Tohaku and his beautiful gold screens. It was the first time ever that his works were shown outside of Japan. Highly recommend it if you can see the tremendous work by this 16th century artist.

  4. I love this artist. The calendar in my kitchen is of his artwork, so I can see a new image every month, and I also have a vintage bottle (with Sake inside) of Kikukawasake, with this image on one side and a different one on the other. And I hadn’t realized this inspired Art Nouveau, which I also love….Thank you for sharing.

  5. Perfect timing! I am just about to start some lessons on printing with my students and am now going to include this video in the lessons. Thank you so much!

  6. I loved the featured artists presentations.
    They all were just wonderful, especially the assemblage Artist. I really enjoyed his fun and quirky piece.
    Thank you Jason for the experience through your excellent presentation.


  7. Thank you for preparing and sharing this art history lesson, Jason. I’ve seen photos of this work and now I know some history about it and the artist thanks to you.

  8. Thanks very much for these art history videos, Jason. I enjoy them.
    I remember well, a visit to the Met in NYC, and my determination to see “The Wave” before I left. After a hurried walk through all sorts of wonderful things in the Asian section, I came across the print. I was startled by how small it was. Of course, because of its ubiquity in current culture, I was familiar with the image but I was expecting the actual image to be much larger. It was a strange feeling of deflation, expecting so much more, and yet also being in awe. Sort of like when I saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris, many years ago.

  9. Love your presentations of art history moments. They are just long enough to peak our interest and give some pertinent information but short enough to fit into any schedule. While I am familiar with this piece and it’s maker, I learned several intriguing facts I was unaware of and plan to research for even more. That’s the epitome of art study,Right? Thanks for you efforts.

  10. Several years ago, I saw several of the prints on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. There was a lecture that explained the differences in the prints. They were on display for a short period of time, about three months I believe. They will bring them out infrequently – only about every five years, to help preserve them.

  11. There used to be a house painted with the image of the Great Wave on 5th St. SW in Calgary.
    Sadly, it’s gone now.

  12. The Wave was bought by Walter and Leonore Annenberg (TV Guide owner and publisher) and resided in the remarkable estate in Palm Springs known as Summerland. Before they passed they donated all their art, well the important pieces to a NY museum, I forget which one. Before they gifted the museum they had the museum make detailed copies of all their art to repopulate their home. You walk by this piece in a hallway and I was shocked to see it. Dramatic and powerful and so much more. For anyone visiting the Palm Springs pre register on-line for tickets. They take small groups of 7 by tram to their house about every 15 min. This makes the tour much more intimate and interesting. “The Wave”, is just one of so many pieces of art.
    The architecture of the house is both a bit of Deco and mostly Modernism. Just a beautiful and breathtaking tour.

  13. As many times as I’ve seen images of the Great Wave, I never noticed the boats in the water! I’ve always been so focused on the wave itself.

  14. There might be some evidence his daughter Katsushika had a uncredited role in creating these prints, as Hokusai developed palsy as he grew older. She was an acclaimed painter in her own right, who disappeared from public view once her father died. The beautiful transitions of colour are possibly attributed to her skill. We’ll never know the complete truth, but she loved and worked with him for years.

    Doesn’t diminish the stunning beauty of these prints, and their enduring fascination.

  15. I have always loved this incredible print..holding me breath waiting for the great wave to crash! I learned new things about it today, thanks to you, Jason…one of which I don’t really understand …the changing of his name with a new body of work! Thank-you.

  16. On one of my trips to Japan I was invited by the Director of the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum in Matsumoto, Japan to visit their private art vault and view some of the many wood block prints in their collection. Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” was one of those prints that I was able to view first-hand. It was truly a pleasure and honour to be allowed to do so. A memory on that particular trip that I will always treasure.

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