Katsushika Hokusai

Pilgrims at Kirifuri Waterfall on Mount Kurokami in Shimotsuke Province by Katsushika Hokusai

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A lively waterfall dominates this famous work by printmaker Katsushika Hokusai (kah-tsuh-she-kah ho-ku-sah-e). The print is from a series by the artist called A Tour of Waterfalls of Various Provinces. Kirifuri waterfall was a popular site to visit during Hokusai’s time and still is today. Strong white and blue vertical lines pour down from the top of the waterfall, dividing and spreading wider at the bottom like the roots of a tree. Three male travelers in front of the waterfall look up, mesmerized by the beauty and scale of the surging water. Above and to the right, two more figures look down at the scene from a higher point on the hill. Well-balanced colors of blue, green, yellow, orange, and white bring together many elements in the print. The importation of mineral pigments from Europe in the nineteenth century, especially Prussian blue, gave Japanese landscape printmakers like Hokusai new opportunities to express dramatic effects of sky and water. Hokusai carefully plays with warm and cool colors, creating contrasts between water, rock, and earth.