Katsushika Hokusai: Groups of Mountain Climbers - Honolulu Museum of Art

Artist: Katsushika Hokusai

Title: Groups of Mountain Climbers

Date: c. 1830 - 1834

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Source: Honolulu Museum of Art
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The print is the only composition in the Fuji series that does not show the mountain’s general configuration. It depicts mountain climbers ascending to Fuji’s summit, which is no longer visible. Climbers in white robes struggle among wild and rugged volcanic rock. Using their staffs, they painstakingly inch to higher positions. In a cave at top right, climbers who have managed to arrive huddle together, shivering in the cold air of a very early mountain morning. The red in the sky foretells that sunrise is due soon. The feeling of the rugged rocks and crevices is expressed by their strange contours and the accentuated texture strokes and dots. The billows of mist rising between the ridges of the mountain create a sense of altitude. Although repetitious, the lively postures of the climbers indicate the difficulty of climbing Fuji. For the Japanese, mountain-worshipers since prehistoric times, Fuji had become sacred because of its height, its beauty, and its inaccessibility. Every year, members of the Fuji-worshiping sect climbed the mountain, each dressed in white and using staff. Today Fuji is climbed both for religious reasons and for sport. Every year on June 1, the day the mountain opens for climbing, many groups of people try to reach the summit, so beautiful from the distance. (The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, HOKUSAI AND HIROSHIGE – Great Japanese Prints from the James A. Michener Collection, Honolulu Academy of Arts: The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, 1998 Page 100. Cat. 51)

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