Where you can see original prints of Hokusai's Great Wave

Hokusai's 1831 masterpiece The Great Wave off Kanagawa had a print run of thousands, and many—but not so many—survive. Where can you go look at one right now? Matt Sephton created a website, Great Wave Today, so you can find out. As of Wednesday, November 22, 2023, you have four options: Young V&A in London, the Civil Museum of Oriental Art in Trieste, the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, Connecticut, and the Sumida Hokusai Museum in Tokyo.

Sephton links to the British Museum's explanation, authored by Capucine Korenberg, of why theirs is rarely on display. The bottom line is the dyes used to print them are fujitive.

Light represents a great risk to many artworks, including Japanese woodblock prints from the 18th and 19th centuries. This is because they were often made using plant-based dyes, which can fade when exposed to light. Many Japanese prints have faded dramatically since they were made. Look at the two copies of a woodblock print by the Japanese artist Utamaro below. The copies were identical when the prints were produced. Now, most of the colours in the print on the right have faded.