Where is the great wave?
August 14, 2007 7:20 PM   Subscribe

Is "The Great Wave at Kanagawa" actually on display at the Met? Does anyone know exactly where it is?
posted by smackfu to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's a woodcut from Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, so there are lots of Great Waves. According to the first hit in google, the original is at the Hakone Museum.
posted by zamboni at 7:41 PM on August 14, 2007


Not to be a smartass but couldn't you just call them and ask? A print is definitely in their Asian Collection but you should ask if it's on permanent display.
posted by junesix at 7:48 PM on August 14, 2007


From that Met link:

As mandated by conservation concerns, certain gallery installations, such as those of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, and Tibetan paintings, rotate every six months, and displays of more fragile textiles, lacquers, and woodblock prints change approximately every four months.
posted by junesix at 7:49 PM on August 14, 2007


the original is at the Hakone Museum

I saw this in my Googling, but I wonder what they mean by the original of a print...

Junesix, maybe that four months thing is why I've never seen it when I've visited. I have asked the guards, but it's never on display, so I asked to see if anyone has actually seen it there. It's probably the most famous Japanese print in the most famous American museum, so it makes you wonder.
posted by smackfu at 8:29 PM on August 14, 2007


I saw it at the Met sometime in the late 90's. It's smaller than you may think, so look carefully.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 9:06 PM on August 14, 2007


This guy says he saw it back in May, but the print in his photo doesn't look right to me.
posted by event at 9:14 PM on August 14, 2007


event writes "This guy says he saw it back in May, but the print in his photo doesn't look right to me."

It doesn't even look like a print. That's a painting.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:54 PM on August 14, 2007


Yeah, No. 21 on this page is the print smackfu is talking about (click to enlarge).
posted by misozaki at 10:56 PM on August 14, 2007


... it's never on display, so I asked to see if anyone has actually seen it there. It's probably the most famous Japanese print in the most famous American museum, so it makes you wonder.

They can't display it ... at least not very often. The pigments used on prints from this era are extremely fugitive, and unfaded copies are extremely rare. If they were to put it on frequent display, they would be liable to charges of criminal incompetence by the art community.

I have no experience with that particular museum, but if you need to see any particular print in a collection like this, you need to write to the curators requesting access. Needless to say, they will only be amenable to such requests if you can really demonstrate very good reasons (research, etc.), and if you have very good credentials ...

As for the previous comment about "the original is in ...", this is a meaningless statement. There is no such thing as an 'original' of prints from this era. Prints of this type were not reproductions of painted imagery, and there was thus no 'master copy' that the craftsmen worked from.

This particular series seems to have been quite popular in its day, and many thousands of copies will have been pulled from the blocks, in varying versions of quality. Most of them would have been destroyed very soon, as they were not considered worth keeping around ... it wasn't 'art' as we think of it these days.
posted by woodblock100 at 11:22 PM on August 14, 2007


Yes, what wooblock100 said concerning the "original". I was in a small shop in Asakusa just last May trying to explain to two American tourists that what they were buying by the truckload were not actually originals, but real ukiyo-e prints..
posted by Andorinha at 3:37 AM on August 15, 2007


what they were buying by the truckload were not actually originals, but _real_ ukiyo-e prints..

Well, 'real' is matter of definition. What they are buying in Asakusa are of course modern reproductions of the old ones. Stuff in the shops here in Tokyo can be almost anything:
  • actual old prints from hundreds of years ago; expensive of course ...
  • actual prints made from new sets of blocks that copy the lines/colours of the originals. Pre-war stuff is usually pretty good; post-war stuff is 'less so'; the current productions (what you see in the Asakusa tourist shops ...) are mostly total crap.
  • offset reproductions being sold as 'prints' by less-scrupulous dealers/shops (lots of this on eBay too ...)

posted by woodblock100 at 4:37 AM on August 15, 2007


I meant real as in made with ukiyo-e printing techniques, not a digital printer. I just found the concept of a paper shop selling "original" prints funny. :)
posted by Andorinha at 5:47 AM on August 15, 2007


My brother saw what I thought was the original version of this in March at the Tokyo National Museum. This is what he saw.
posted by rachelv at 6:32 AM on August 15, 2007


Holy cow... you're David Bull. Your woodblock work is amazing!

If I could derail a bit, is it rare to find the original wood blocks, if ever? If not, are the actual wood blocks ever on display or are they just not that interesting to look at?
posted by junesix at 8:16 AM on August 15, 2007


The Met has a print study room in which you can make appointments to see works on paper; I'm not an Asianist so I don't know if that's the place to see Japanese woodcuts or if they separate those out (I used to be a curator of works on paper at the Fine Arts Museums of SF, and our Japanese prints were available through the print study room). Try calling them and asking:

Met Print Study Room
posted by obliquicity at 11:44 AM on August 15, 2007


is it rare to find the original wood blocks, if ever? If not, are the actual wood blocks ever on display or are they just not that interesting to look at?

Old blocks are all over the place here, at flea markets, etc. etc. They are kind of neat, and I pick them up when I can, but the sellers usually have a very highly inflated concept of their value, which is really pretty much zero. You never see 'the original blocks' for anything like the Hokusai print we were discussing, because those had good value during their day, and would not have been tossed aside. There was no such legal concept as copyright back then, and possession of blocks conferred all the rights that were necessary to produce prints.

So they were used and used and used until there was basically nothing left of them. Fire/earthquake eventually took care of what was left.

The blocks we do see nowadays are most typically those that were used to print books, and usually date from around the Meiji era. (Before printing presses arrived in Japan, all book publishing was done with all the text handcarved on woodblocks.)

One exception to this pattern is the very interesting example of the set of Hokusai blocks in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. An almost complete set of the blocks for one of his most famous colour books was purchased in Japan and subsequently given to the museum by a well-known collector back in 1909. Those blocks were recently (late 1980's) used to pull a modern edition of the book ...
posted by woodblock100 at 4:02 PM on August 15, 2007


woodblock100 -will you promise to do a post one day with all your delicious wood block knowledge?
posted by typewriter at 8:24 PM on August 15, 2007


a post one day with all your delicious wood block knowledge

Boy, how do I answer that!? Thanks very much for the interest in what I do! As far as 'all' the knowledge, well, that's building up on my site bit by bit ... ten years of work on it so far, and hopefully many more years to come!

(smackfu ... apologies for these 'derails', if that is what they are ...)
posted by woodblock100 at 9:06 PM on August 15, 2007


No worries! I love this stuff.

Anyways, I went to the Met this weekend, and asked around. It's not on display right now. The Japanese gallery is small, and only has one wall of prints, so they are themed and rotated often. By random chance, they do have another of the Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji on display right now: the theme is mirrored images, so this one fits right in. I was happy.
posted by smackfu at 8:35 PM on August 20, 2007


this one fits right in.

That's not a bad reproduction you linked to ... maybe mid-century, probably issued by the publishers Adachi or Takamizawa; way better than the modern stuff. You got good taste! :-)
posted by woodblock100 at 10:03 PM on August 20, 2007


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