Reader Collection > Exhibitions > Big Waves and Birds in Japanese Art














Big ocean waves are eye-catching because they are not an everyday occurrence. In Japan, which is surrounded by ocean, many artists have made big waves the subject of their art. Two of the most famous of these big wave pictures were drawn by Hokusai Katsushika and are shown below. To help the viewer judge the size of the waves Hokusai included two boats full of people in the picture on the left and a flock of birds (i.e., little ringed plover) in the picture on the right.



Birds were used far more often than people to indicate wave size in Japanese big wave pictures. Sixteen examples of these big-wave-and-bird pictures are included in this virtual exhibition. These pictures are part of the Reader Collection of Japanese Art. The sixteen artists differed in their choice of bird species. Some artists chose to include species naturally associated with water, such as the little ringed plover (pictures 1-5) and long-tailed duck (picture 6). Other artists chose species normally found on land, such as the golden eagle (picture 7), red-crowned crane (pictures 8-13), barn swallow (pictures 14-15) and domestic fowl (picture 16). For each of these sixteen pictures the following information is given: names of the bird and artist, picture or book title (if any), printing method and picture size.










1   Little ringed plover (Charadrius dubius) by an anonymous artist, woodblock print, 260 x 180 mm 











2   Little ringed plover (Charadrius dubius) by Suian Hirafuku, woodblock print, 200 x 95 mm





3   Little ringed plover (Charadrius dubius) by Morikuni Tachibana, included in Unpitsu Soga (i.e., Brush Movements in Coarse Painting), woodblock print, 370 x 270 mm











4   Little ringed plover (Charadrius dubius) by Hokkei Totoya, woodblock print, 185 x 210 mm




5   Little ringed plover (Charadrius dubius) by Bun’yu Kokuba, woodblock print, 155 x 430 mm











6   Long-tailed duck (Clangula hyemalis) by Izumi Fujita, woodblock print entitled between the waves – long-tailed duck, 320 x 400 mm



7   Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) by Kōitsu Tsuchiya, woodblock print, 190 x 395 mm











8   Red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis) by Keinen Imao, woodblock print, 180 x 160 mm



9   Red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis) by Hiroshige Utagawa, woodblock print, 170 x 380 mm











10   Red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis) by Koryūsai Isoda, woodblock print, 215 x 290 mm



11   Red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis) by Toyohiro Utagawa, woodblock print, 170 x 230 mm











12   Red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis) by Bairei Kōno, included in Inaka no Tsuki (i.e., Moon on the 20th Night of the Month), woodblock print, 330 x 240 mm





13   Red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis) by Yoshio Kanamori, woodblock print, 150 x 125 mm











14   Barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) by Seihō Takeuchi, woodblock print, 415 x 340 mm





15   Barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) by Koson Ohara, woodblock print, 190 x 370 mm











16   Domestic fowl (Gallus gallus) by Seikō Kawachi, screenprint entitled flying – Hokusai, 500 x 750 mm









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