20 Stunning Views of Japan

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Launch Slideshow

Incorporating for the first time other collecting categories, Sotheby’s Hong Kong June series of Chinese Works of Art sales will feature a fine group of Japanese woodblock prints from a private Hong Kong collection, among them the eminent Under the Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849), one of the most iconic images of modern art and the most famous print by Hokusai from the series of the Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. Click ahead to travel back through time and enjoy an artistic tour to Japan.

Chinese Art, including
the late John Payne collection of Japanese prints

1- 2 June | Hong Kong 

20 Stunning Views of Japan

  • Katsushika Hokusai, Under The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, Thirty-Six Views Of Mount Fuji. Estimate HK$400,000–600,000.
    This is one of the most iconic images of modern art and the most famous print of Hokusai. The ingenuity of the composition, depicting a huge wave about to crash down upon frail boats beneath while the cresting foam on top of the wave wraps around Mount Fuji has been very influential on generations of artists both in the East and the West. The energy it conveys echoes similar approaches to render the 'sublime' of nature in 19th century European artistic movements. A smaller wave surging in the forefront mirrors the shape of Mount Fuji, a recurrent feature in the series. This is a fine and early impression of this great design, with blue contours, the outline of the pink clouds still showing in the sky when these have often disappeared from most impressions of the print.

  • Katsushika Hokusai, The 'Cushion Pine' At Aoyama, Thirty-Six Views Of Mount Fuji. Estimate HK$40,000–60,000.
    In this print, Hokusai depicts Mount Fuji from the view point of the garden of the Zen temple Ryuganji in Shibuya. The garden was known for its large pine tree that had grown a rounded canopy resembling a cushion. Its heavy branches are extending down and supported on bamboo stilts, echoing the gentle slopes of Mount Fuji behind. A father and son climbing the hill in the forefront and a few lively picnickers are enjoying the scenery.

  • Katsushika Hokusai, Sazai Hall of the Five-Hundred Rakan Temple, Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. Estimate HK$30,000–50,000.
    One of the emblematic print in the series, Hokusai depicts a group of visitors to the Sazai temple of the five-hundred rakans on the outskirts of modern Tokyo. The Fuji is here featured in interaction with people as they gaze from an outdoor veranda towards the sacred mountain set next to the lumber yards of Fukagawa on the horizon. Two pilgrims are resting seated after circumambulating the three storey spiralling building -hence the name turban shell or Sazai in Japanese- next to a group of visitors, among them a young boy points his finger diagonally towards the volcano accenting spatial depth. On his scarf, the coat of arms of the print editor Nishimuraya Yoachi (Eijudo). This is an early edition of the print with fresh colouring and sharp lines, the sky typically covered entirely with a subtle gradation of blue and the two red seals of the censor and the publisher showing on the lower left.

  • Katsushika Hokusai, Umezawa Manor In Sagami Province, Thirty-Six Views Of Mount Fuji. Estimate HK$20,000–30,000.
    The location of this view over the Mount Fuji is traditionally explained by the last character at the bottom of the upper left cartouche 'hidari' (left), which the carver would have in fact miswritten for the character 'sho' or 'zai' (manor). This would then identify the place as Umezawa Manor in modern city Ninomiya on the Tokaido road. Cranes are the most sacred birds of Japan and associated with longevity. Chinese mythology also depicts immortals riding on the back of cranes approaching the slopes of the fabled Mount Hörai, a sacred mountain believed to be in the ocean to the east of China and which Hokusai would here associate with Mount Fuji.

  • Katsushika Hokusai, Hodogaya In The Tokaido, Thirty Six Views Of Mount Fuji. Estimate HK$20,000–30,000.
    The Fuji is here seen from Senju, near the Arakawa river in the Kantö mountains in the northern part of modern Tokyo. A horseman takes a glimpse at the snow-covered Fuji, passing by two fishermen angling in a canal next to a floodgate. The stance of his horse with lowered down head and tail echoes the conical shape of the Fuji, while the lead rein forms an inverted triangle under the weight of a small turtle he captured, also evoking the shape of the sacred mountain. The floodgate provides vertical lines flattening the surface of the composition while accentuating the spatial recession of the landscape.

  • Katsushika Hokusai A View Of Mt. Fuji Beneath The Mannen Bridge in Fukagawa, From The Series 'Thirty-Six Views Of Mount Fuji'. Estimate HK$20,000–30,000.
    The Fuji is here depicted from a viewpoint set below the Mannen bridge arching over the Konakigawa river which is a small stream flowing into the Sumida river in the Fukagawa district of Edo. Here again as in all other designs in the series, Hokusai follows the precepts of Western art perspective, all lines converging towards the single tower in the centre of the scene below the bridge. Yet the artist deliberately ignores some of the perspective rules, somehow ‘flattening’ the surface of the composition –for example the placing of the boat in the forefront- in a graphic approach that will later be of great influence on modern western art.

  • Katsushika Hokusai, Mishima Pass In Kai Province, Thirty Six Views Of Mount Fuji. Estimate HK$30,000–40,000.
  • Katsushika Hokusai, Hodogaya In The Tokaido, Thirty Six Views Of Mount Fuji. Estimate HK$20,000–30,000.
  • Katsushika Hokusai, Two Prints: Honganji Temple, Asakusa & Tsukuda Island, Musashi, Thirty-Six Views Of Mount Fuji. Estimate HK$40,000–60,000.
  • Katsushika Hokusai, Nakahara In Sagami Province, Thirty Six Views Of Mount Fuji. Estimate HK$30,000–40,000.
  • Katsushika Hokusai, Enoshima In Soshu Province, Thirty-Six Views Of Mount Fuji. Estimate HK$40,000–60,000.
  • Katsushika Hokusai, Drum Bridge At Kameido Tenjin Shrine, Rare Views Of Bridges In Various Provinces. Estimate HK$15,000–20,000.
  • Katsushika Hokusai, Roben Waterfall At Oyama, Sagami Province, A Tour Of The Waterfalls Of The Provinces. Estimate HK$30,000–50,000.
  • Katsushika Hokusai, Fujiwara No Toshiyuki, From The Series One Hundred Poems As Explained By The Nurse. Estimate HK$30,000–40,000.
  • Ando Hiroshige, The Night View Of Sarukawa-Machi, One Hundred Famous Views Of Edo. Estimate HK$10,000–15,000.
  • Ando Hiroshige, The Iris Garden In Hoikiri, One Hundred Famous Views Of Edo. Estimate HK$10,000–15,000.
  • Ando Hiroshige, Sudden Shower Over The Ohashi Bridge, Atake, One Hundred Famous Views Of Edo. Estimate HK$300,000–400,000.
  • Ando Hiroshige, Travellers Surprised By Sudden Rain, The 53 Stations Of Tokaido. Estimate HK$20,000–30,000.
  • Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Travellers Leading A Horse View Of The Tamura Ferry At Oyama In Sagami Province. Estimate HK$15,000–25,000.
  • Hiroshige, Naruto Whirlppols, Awa Province, From The Series Famous Views Of The Sixty Odd Provinces. Estimate HK$20,000–30,000.
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