The Great Wave by Hokusai: Great Art Explained

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Great art explained. James Payne discusses the Great Wave.

I started “Great Art Explained” during lockdown. My aim is to make videos which focus on one great artwork. I want to present art in a jargon free, entertaining, clear and concise way with no gimmicks.

Subscribe and click the bell icon to get more arts content. Each video takes me about three weeks to a month, so I download at least once a month:…

In 1639 Japan closed its borders and cut itself off from the outside world. Foreigners were expelled, Western culture was forbidden, and Entering or leaving Japan was punishable by Death. It would remain that way for over 200 years.

It was under these circumstances that a quintessentially Japanese art developed. Art for the people that was consumed on an unprecedented scale.


All the videos, songs, images, and graphics used in the video belong to their respective owners and I or this channel does not claim any right over them. Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing.

Thanks to Bart Vergouwe for Dutch Subtitles.
Thanks to Mi Nguyen for Vietnamese Subtitles
Thanks to Dimitris Grammenos for Greek Subtitles
Thanks to Charles Xiu for Chinese Subtitles
Thanks to Cosimo Botticelli for Italian Subtitles
Thanks to Victoria Drabik for German Subtitles
Thanks to Tomas Iriarte for Spanish subtitles
Thanks to Gustavo Lyra for Portuguese subtitles

Many thanks to Takashi Shibata and Shannon Shibato-Germanos for helping me, in particular with my pronunciations!

Many thanks to David Bull for permission to use his brilliant woodblock making videos. Watch his inspiring videos at –

David Bull’s prints made with care and attention can be ordered here -

Music is copyright free – Debussy’s Evocation of the Sea
Incidental music –
Animation by Peter Van Valkenburgh –
Made in Tokyo –
Drone footage –

Reference books
Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave, edited by Timothy Clark
Hokusai: Thirty-six views by Amelie Balcou
Ukiyo-e: The art of the Japanese print by Frederick Harris
Manga and the Representation of Japanese History by Roman Rosenbaum
A Brief History of Japan by Jonathan Clements
A history of Japan by RHP Mason and JG Caiger