FUJISAN in Art
More artists have chosen FUJISAN as the subject of their paintings than any other mountain, the most famous artists being ukiyo-e print masters Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige.Hokusai, best known for his series of woodblock prints called Fugaku-sanjurokkei (Thirty-six Views of FUJISAN), masterfully depicted the various ways in which people interacted with FUJISAN with rich imagination and masterful composition. Not content with 36 views, though, he produced an additional 10 prints of Ura-Fuji (The Far Side of FUJISAN) for a total 46 views. Hiroshige,meanwhile, featured the mountain in many of his prints in the Tokaido-gojusantsugi (Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido) and Meisho Edo hyakkei (One Hundred Famous Views of Edo) series.
The oldest extant painting of FUJISAN is said to be Shotoku Taishi eden (Pictorial Biography of Prince Shotoku) from the Heian period (794-1185) illustrating a legend in which the prince rides to FUJISAN’s summit on a horse presented to him by Kai Province (presentday Yamanashi Prefecture). In paintings from the Heian, Kamakura (1185-1333), and subsequent periods FUJISAN was often depicted as having three peaks and covered with snow throughout the year.
In more modern times, Yokoyama Taikan employed distinctive techniques and angles in creating such works as Gunjo Fuji (FUJISAN Dyed Ultramarine) and Hi izuru tokoro Nihon (Land of the Rising Sun). Countless other artists have depicted FUJISAN over the years, among the most notable being Shiba Kokan during the Edo period (1603-1868), Tsukioka Yoshitoshi―whose career spanned both feudal and modern Japan―along with Nihonga artist Matsuoka Eikyu and Western-style painter Umehara Ryuzaburo in the Taisho (1912-1926) and Showa (1926-1989) eras.
FUJISAN in Europe
Thirty-six Views of FUJISAN by Katsushika Hokusai is widely known in Europe.French writer Edmond de Goncourt, who later published a critical biography of Hokusai, is said to have remarked to friends―while looking at the series of Hokusai’s prints―that the roots of Monet’s color expression lay in these images.Monet was indeed enamored of Japan’s ukiyo-e prints.
Van Gogh, meanwhile, not only collected but also organized exhibitions of these prints. Before his encounter with ukiyo-e, Van Gogh used predominantly dark hues.Following his visit to Paris in 1886, where he met artists of the Impressionist school and saw ukiyo-e prints, his style began shifting toward his hallmark use of vivid colors.
A print of Kanagawa oki nami ura (Great Wave off Kanagawa) hung on the wall of Claude Debussy’s room as he composed his famous symphonic poem, La Mer. The print also adorned the cover of the first edition of its later published score.
That the Thirty-six Views was a series of works all featuring FUJISAN as the subject was an additional source of surprise for European painters. Woodblock artist Henri Riviere was so influenced by this piece that he produced his own series called Les Trente-six Vues de la Tour Eiffel (Thirty-six Views of the Eiffel Tower) as a tribute to Hokusai.
The first British Minister Plenipotentiary to Japan, Sir Rutherford Alcock,climbed FUJISAN during his tenure in Japan and later introduced the peak with woodcut illustrations in his 1863 book, The Capital of the Tycoon: A Narrative of a Three Years' Residence in Japan.