Under the wave off Kanagawa (The Great Wave) from Thirty-six views of Mt Fuji. Colour woodblock, 1831. Acquisition supported by the Art Fund. Hokusai’s The Great Wave (also known as Under the Wave off Kanagawa or, simply, The Wave) is one of the most iconic images in art. Today it’s featured on all sorts of merchandise from wine labels and tourist brochures to book covers, gift bags, fans and even underwear. But in 1831, it was the first in a series of prints, Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji, with the towering blue wave only playing a supporting role. The Great Wave appeared in its day as a piece of commercial art, akin to today’s posters—mass-produced for and by the common people. It was “discovered” in the mid-19th century by the European avant-garde, who considered Hokusai’s works to be fine art and compared him to Western artists including Goya and Rembrandt. As the British Museum presents its first big Hokusai exhibition since 1948, Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave, we find insight into Hokusai’s artistic genius beyond his significance in Western culture and surpassing his famous wave. Ironically though, the main image of the show is none other than The Great Wave. At the same time, the Victoria and Albert Museum is putting on its own exhibition, The Ephemera Effect: Hokusai’s Great Wave. Based on an idea by Christine M. E. Guth, who also wrote the book Hokusai’s Great Wave: Biography of a Global Icon, the V&A is celebrating The Great Wave as a commercial and global brand in today’s popular culture. Whether it’s considered fine art or popular art, the image remains relevant almost two hundred years later; it recently inspired A. Richard Allen’s satiric Trump Wave, the winner of the V&A’s 2017 Editorial Illustration Award. Ultimately, The Great Wave moves within and beyond its cultural background as an icon not bound by time, space, media or currents—a wave beyond Hokusai. — Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave runs until August 13 at the British Museum. TwitterFacebookPinterest Related Stories Arts & Culture Issue 19 Going Incognito We all secretly wonder what mischief we’d make if invisible: When our identity is hidden, everything seems possible. Arts & Culture Issue 19 The Best Policy Sometimes we talk to each other without feeling heard. Honesty—a most intimate interaction—can be just as thrilling as its more devious inverse. Arts & Culture Issue 19 A Sense of Suspense With unhinged imaginations and mountains of cliff-hangers, the filmmakers behind the sci-fi podcast Limetown have all the makings of a scary story. Arts & Culture Issue 19 Like Clockwork In this new column about time, we learn how slipping off our watches makes us feel like deadline-damning renegades. Arts & Culture Music Issue 19 On a Grander Scale Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna now may live on the opposite side of the globe, but she’s determined to evolve while staying true to her roots. Arts & Culture Issue 19 Neighborhood: Fire Stations The firefighting profession has evolved over time from Ancient Rome’s rudimentary bucket brigades to today’s sleek life-saving departments.