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From The Wall Street Journal

How Hokusai’s ‘The Great Wave’ Went Viral

“The Great Wave,” Katsushika Hokusai’s woodblock print from the early 1830s, may be the most famous artwork in Japanese history, and its popularity isn’t cresting anytime soon.

The image of a wave towering over Mount Fuji is the subject of a new book and recent exhibits in Paris and Berlin. It is on view in a show at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and another major display is expected at the British Museum in 2017. Starting April 5, the piece takes a starring role in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s largest ever exhibition of Japanese prints.

The artwork exists in that rare stratosphere of images that are both instantly recognizable and internationally famous. “The Great Wave” has gone viral over time, first circulating the old-fashioned way—via traders and tall ships in the 19th century. Since then, the woodcut has been called an inspiration for Claude Debussy’s orchestral work, “La Mer,” and appears in poetry and prose by Rainer Maria Rilke, Pearl S. Buck and Hari Kunzru. Levi’s and Patagonia used it in marketing campaigns. It has been preserved in cyberspace as a Google Doodle and an emoji.

“There is no work of nonwestern art that has a comparable level of recognition,” said Christine Guth, author of “Hokusai’s Great Wave: Biography of a Global Icon” released this year. Ms. Guth, who is acting head of the history of design program at London’s Royal College of Art, said the print has been used to symbolize everything from economic power to military threats to natural disaster: “An image that originated in Japan took on a life of its own.”

Sarah Thompson, the MFA show’s curator, said the museum was the first in the world to stage a Hokusai exhibit in the early 1890s.

The show in Boston, which runs until early August, features more than 230 works from Hokusai’s seven-decade career, including illustrated printed books, a long screen painting and paper dioramas. The exhibit, six years in the making, is built on works entirely from the MFA’s collection. It just finished a multicity tour in Japan.

“The Great Wave”— formally titled “Under the Wave off Kanagawa” from the Hokusai series “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji”—adorns marketing for the Boston show. Inside the exhibit, though, visitors will have to look for it. The work, about the size of a piece of legal paper, will be grouped with the series of Mount Fuji prints.

The image is a mix of east and west—a blending of techniques that Hokusai picked up from Japanese artists and his own knowledge of European prints. The woodblock depicts Mount Fuji, a hallowed place in Japan, but pushes the peak deep into the distance using western perspective. The wave was printed on Japanese mulberry paper but marked by a color new to Japan—a vibrant Prussian blue created from synthetic dye in Germany.

The work was fairly accessible to the Japanese—one scholar has said it went for the price of a large bowl of noodle soup—while the snobbish view of prints inside the country made it easier for the series to travel abroad.


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Hokusai’s Great Wave: Biography of a Global Icon
by Christine Guth

January 2015 | 272 pages | 70 color illustrations, 5 black & white
Paper ISBN 978-0-8248-3960-4 | $20.00 $15.00
Cloth ISBN 978-0-8248-3959-8 | $57.00 $42.75

UH Press at the College Art Association Annual Conference, February 11–14 in New York

University of Hawai‘i Press is exhibiting at the College Art Association annual conference this week, February 11–14, at the Hilton New York to showcase new and recent titles from our latest Fall and Spring catalogs. Please visit us at exhibit booth 1404 where UHP director Michael Duckworth will be available to discuss our titles and publishing program.

Highlights from our display include:

Guth-Hokusai'sGreatWaveHokusai’s Great Wave: Biography of a Global Icon
by Christine Guth

272 pages | 70 color and 5 black & white illustrations
Paper | 978-0-8248-3960-4 | $20.00
Cloth | 978-0-8248-3959-8 | $57.00

TheMcCausland-MongulCentury Mongol Century: Visual Cultures of Yuan China, 1271–1368
by Shane McCausland

288 pages, 162 illustrations, 141 in color
Cloth | 978-0-8248-5145-3 | $65.00
Published in association with Reaktion Books
For sale only in the United States and Canada

Davis-PartnersinPrintPartners in Print: Artistic Collaboration and the Ukiyo-e Market
by Julie Nelson Davis

264 pages, 101 color illustrations
Cloth | 978-0-8248-3938-3 | $50.00

Reynolds-AllegoriesAllegories of Time and Space: Japanese Identity in Photography and Architecture
by Jonathan M. Reynolds

328 pages | 23 color and 60 black & white illustrations
Cloth | 978-0-8248-3924-6 | $45.00

Booth visitors can take advantage of the conference offer of a 20% discount and free shipping in the U.S. Free shipping applies only to orders placed at the conference.

Coordinating history through East Asia’s maps // China, Korea, and Japan revealed

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NEW RELEASE


Cartographic Traditions in East Asian Maps
written by Richard A. Pegg

2014 | 140 pages | 130 color illustrations
Cloth | ISBN 978-0-8248-4765-4 | $40.00
Published in association with MacLean Collection

 

Cartographic Traditions in East Asian Maps is focused on a group of maps from the MacLean Collection, one of the world’s largest private collections of maps. Included are are eighteenth and nineteenth-century maps from the late Qing dynasty in China, the Joseon dynasty in Korea and the Edo and Meiji periods in Japan illustrating late traditions in the region’s history. This book provides some of the particular practices and relationships between text and image in East Asian map making that are unique in world cartography. Often particular map making characteristics are not recognized as unique within their own cultural contexts, and so it is only through the process of comparing and contrasting that these qualities emerge. This survey of selected maps proves extremely useful in revealing certain similarities and distinctive differences in the representations of space, both real and imagined, in early modern cartographic traditions of China, Korea and Japan.

The beginnings of beer in Japan

alexanderBrewed
NEW RELEASE


Brewed in Japan: The Evolution of the Japanese Beer Industry
written by Jeffrey W. Alexander

2014 | 296 pages | illustrations
Paper | ISBN 978-0-8248-3953-6 | $30.00
Published in association with the University of British Columbia Press
For sale only in the U.S. and its dependencies

 

“The story Alexander tells is a fresh one, intersecting with important themes in Japan’s modern history (from the process of ‘borrowing’ from the West to the growth of the consumer economy) but novel and revealing at every turn. Brewed in Japan is a striking new addition to the field and engages with many of the most widely debated issues in Japanese economic and social history.” —William Tsutsui, author of Banking Policy in Japan: American Efforts at Reform during the Occupation

Featuring nearly 300 pages of text, dozens of photographs and period advertisements, and a vast bibliography, Brewed in Japan is both a close analysis of Japan’s leading brewing firms and a revealing look at the fascinating country in which they do business.

Gender and Nation in Meiji Japan: Modernity, Loss, and the Doing of History

KarlinGender and Nation in Meiji Japan is a historical analysis of the discourses of nostalgia in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Japan. Through an analysis of the experience of rapid social change in Japan’s modernization, it argues that fads (ryūkō) and the desires they express are central to understanding Japanese modernity, conceptions of gender, and discourses of nationalism. In doing so, the author uncovers the myth of eternal return that lurks below the surface of Japanese history as an expression of the desire to find meaning amid the chaos and alienation of modern times. The Meiji period (1868–1912) was one of rapid change that hastened the process of forgetting: The state’s aggressive program of modernization required the repression of history and memory. However, repression merely produced new forms of desire seeking a return to the past, with the result that competing or alternative conceptions of the nation haunted the history of modern Japan. Rooted in the belief that the nation was a natural and organic entity that predated the rational, modern state, such conceptions often were responses to modernity that envisioned the nation in opposition to the modern state. What these visions of the nation shared was the ironic desire to overcome the modern condition by seeking the timeless past. While the condition of their repression was often linked to the modernizing policies of the Meiji state, the means for imagining the nation in opposition to the state required the construction of new symbols that claimed the authority of history and appealed to a rearticulated tradition. Through the idiom of gender and nation, new reified representations of continuity, timelessness, and history were fashioned to compensate for the unmooring of inherited practices from the shared locales of everyday life.

This book examines the intellectual, social, and cultural factors that contributed to the rapid spread of Western tastes and styles, along with the backlash against Westernization that was expressed as a longing for the past. By focusing on the expressions of these desires in popular culture and media texts, it reveals how the conflation of mother, countryside, everyday life, and history structured representations to naturalize ideologies of gender and nationalism.

Written by Jason G. Karlin

2014 | 320 pages | 45 illustrations
ISBN: 978-0-8248-3826-3 | $45.00 | Cloth

Association for Asian American Studies Conference in San Francisco and the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Conference in Chicago

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University of Hawai‘i Press is exhibiting at two conferences this week, showcasing new and recent titles from our Spring catalog as well as our Asian Studies catalog.

In San Francisco from April 16-19 at the Grand Hyatt for the Association for Asian American Studies Conference, acquisitions editor Masako Ikeda will be available to meet with prospective authors.

In Chicago, editor Stephanie Chun will be at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Conference from April 16-19 at the Marriott Chicago.

Some titles to look out for at both meetings: From Fu Manchu to Kung Fu Panda: Images of China in American FilmScrutinized!: Surveillance in Asian North American Literature, Dubious Gastronomy: The Culture Politics of Eating Asian in the USA, and Capturing Contemporary Japan: Differentiation and Uncertainty.

Please visit us to see our latest titles and take advantage of the conference offer of a 20% discount and free shipping in the U.S. Free shipping applies only to orders received or placed at the conference.