Friday essay: from the Great Wave to Starry Night, how a blue pigment changed the world

Hokusai’s Great wave off Kanagawa remains the enduring image of Japanese art. The print depicts a giant wave with unmistakable frothing tentacles poised to smash a boat below. The boat’s occupants toil uncaring or unaware of the hovering deluge – the curve of their vessel matching the lines of the heaving sea around them. With the intense drama unfolding in the foreground, the central image of the work – the white-capped Mount Fuji – is easily missed, or mistaken for another ocean crest

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