Surface of the Water at Misaka in Kai Province

  • Title(s): Surface of the Water at Misaka in Kai Province; Reflection in Lake at Misaka in Kai Province (Kōshū Misaka suimen), from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei)
  • Creator: Katsushika Hokusai
  • Date: About 1830–32
  • Period: Edo period (1615–1868), Ukiyo-e
  • Location: Japan
  • Culture: Japanese, 19th Century
  • Medium: Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper
  • Physical Dimensions: 9 5/8 x 14 3/4 in. (24.4 x 37.5 cm) or 9 4/5 x 14 9/16 in. (24.9 x 37.0 cm)
  • Repository: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

In this piece, Hokusai demonstrates his characteristic use of novel composition, color, and the connection between the natural world and the people within it. Green hills slope to frame a forest of tall pines and a village of beige, hut-like houses that creep from the trees to the edges of the water. The ink of the water is a deep, vivid blue in the inlets and nearer to the shore but flows in a gradient to become lighter further into the foreground. The blue of the sky matches this pattern, beginning with a rich blue strip at the top of the print and fading into a pale yellowish glow where it meets the treeline. Highlighted by this implied light source, the sloping ridge and glowing peak of Mount Fuji rise to sit high in the golden ratio of the background. With his iconic use of composition, Hokusai depicts a mirrored reflection of the mountain’s posture, positioned in a way so that if one drew a line connecting the peaks, it would form a diagonal rather than a straight line. Unlike the previous piece, this one includes indications of human life amidst the serenity of the natural landscape. By placing homes and even a fishing boat floating atop the still water’s surface, alongside the mountain, a still, yet striking protector and symbol of equal strength and spiritual tranquility, Hokusai illustrates a delicate balance of peace between the natural, spiritual, and human worlds.

Author: Alexa Booker

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