Munich (dpa) – The Bavarian State Library has acquired one of the most famous graphic works of art in the world, the “Great Wave” by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai.
The work was purchased from a private collection for a low seven-figure euro sum, the State Library announced on Tuesday. It is the highlight and a culmination of a series of acquisitions of works by the artist by the library.
Hokusai created the woodblock print “Under the Wave in the Sea off Kanagawa” – the work’s actual title – between 1830 and 1832. It is the best-known print in his series of woodblock prints “36 Views of Mount Fuji.” The sacred mountain can be seen in the background, while in the foreground a huge wave threatens to break over fishing boats.
The depiction has been interpreted as an embodiment of the beauty as well as the destructive power of nature; as a metaphor for the transience of human life; and as a symbol of the intrusion of the West into Japan.
“I am very pleased that we have succeeded in bringing this top-class print to Bavaria,” Bavaria’s minister of arts, Markus Blume, said. “It makes Munich one of the few places in Germany whose collections possess such gems by this world-famous master.”
The State Library says that technological examinations at its Institute for Conservation and Restoration confirmed that the colour woodcut is an early, extraordinarily well-preserved print of the original printing plates.
The work will be a highlight of the State Library’s annual exhibition planned for 2025, which will be dedicated to the collection of Japanese woodblock prints. The Japanese collection of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek comprises a total of around 90,000 printed volumes, 100 manuscripts and 900 prints.