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Hokusai’s Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji Sells for $3.5 Million at Auction

Home 5 Ukiyo-e 5 Hokusai’s Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji Sells for $3.5 Million at Auction
Katsushika Hokusai's iconic 'Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji,' a collection of 46 exquisite woodblock prints from Japan's Edo period, was sold for $3.559 million at a Christie's auction in New York.
Last updated Mar 20, 2024
by Sal

Introduction

In a remarkable Christie’s New York auction, a complete and rare set of Katsushika Hokusai’s “Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji” woodblock prints, comprising 46 pieces, sold for $3.559 million on Tuesday, 19 March 2024.

Originating from the early 1830s, this collection showcases Mount Fuji across various perspectives, initially encompassing 36 prints but expanding by an additional 10 due to its initial success.

Over the span of a decade, Jitendra Singh, a retired Wharton School of Business professor, meticulously gathered these pieces, culminating in 2023 with a total investment of around $3 million.

This sale notably surpasses the last complete set auctioned in 2002 at Sotheby’s Paris for 1.4 million euros ($1.5 million), reflecting the growing global demand for Hokusai’s art, as noted by Christie’s Japanese and Korean art department head, Takaaki Murakami.

And last year’s record breaking sale of “The Great Wave of Kanagawa” for $2.76 million became the most expensive ukiyo-e art sold at auction.

About The Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji

Published between 1830 and 1834, Katsushika Hokusai’s “Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji” quickly garnered widespread acclaim in Japan, revolutionizing the art world with its innovative use of Prussian blue pigment and linear perspective, inspired by Dutch perspective manuals of the eighteenth century.

This series, which eventually expanded to 46 prints due to its popularity, features the sacred Mount Fuji in a variety of contexts, capturing the mountain’s profound spiritual and cultural significance to the Edo people. Hokusai’s masterful incorporation of the vibrant Prussian blue not only highlighted the dynamic energy of scenes, most notably in “The Great Wave,” but also marked a significant shift in Japanese printmaking, making these works highly sought after and massively reproduced globally. The affordable prints were sold in vast numbers, reflecting both the artistic innovation and the deep cultural reverence for Mount Fuji, depicted in diverse landscapes, seasons, and weather conditions.

According to Murakami, Hokusai’s depictions of Mount Fuji are characterized by their versatility and complexity, often infused with a sense of humor, showcasing the artist’s deep fascination with the mountain’s beauty and spirit.

Part of the complete set of the 46 prints from The Thirty Six Views of Mt Fuji
Part of the complete set of the 46 prints from The Thirty Six Views of Mt Fuji – courtesy Christies auction house

The Collector’s Journey

In a remarkable journey spanning over 30 years, Jitendra V. Singh accomplished the extraordinary feat of assembling this complete set of “Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji”.

Personal Spiritual Adventures and Reverence of Mount Fuji

Singh’s passion for Hokusai was kindled relatively late in his life, around the age of 60, spurred by his own spiritual and adventurous journeys across significant mountains like the Himalayas, Mt. Everest, and Mount Kailash in Tibet. His first acquisition of a Hokusai print in 2013 marked the beginning of a deeply personal quest to own the entire “Thirty-Six Views” series, driven by an admiration for Hokusai’s artistry and the spiritual essence of Mount Fuji.

The series is celebrated for its artistic and cultural significance, offering a glimpse into the everyday lives and serene landscapes of Japan, with Mount Fuji as a constant, revered element. The scarcity of complete collections, with fewer than ten known to exist, underscores the rarity and importance of Singh’s accomplishment.

Singh’s Collection Develops Over a Decade

Singh meticulously assembled his collection over a decade, investing around $3 million with the assistance of art dealers and galleries, ensuring each piece represented the highest quality and preservation. His approach was one of reverence, keeping the prints hermetically sealed and away from public display, viewing them as precious treasures rather than mere decorative items.

Singh’s collection and the auction reflect not only his personal journey and dedication to Hokusai’s work but also the broader impact of Japanese art on Western aesthetics, particularly through the influence of Japonisme on the Impressionists. Hokusai’s commitment to his craft and his philosophical musings on self-improvement resonate with Singh’s own values and the Hindu notion of perfection.

Auction Proceeds Marked for Charity as Part of a Trust

By auctioning the collection and placing it in a trust, Singh aligns his financial interests with charitable causes, showcasing the intersection of art, investment, and philanthropy. The sale not only marks a significant event in the art market but also honors the legacy of Katsushika Hokusai and the enduring allure of Mount Fuji, celebrating the profound connection between art, spirituality, and nature.

The summary above of Mr. Singh’s journey comes from an article in the New York Times.

Read more:

Fujimar - a contemporary Japanese art print inspired by the ukiyo-e style by The Art of Zen
Fujimar – a contemporary art print inspired by the ukiyo-e style by The Art of Zen

At the Art of Zen we have a selection of original Japanese art prints in the ukiyo-e and Japandi style. Some of our best selling work is Mount Fuji wall art and Japandi wall art.

Add some zen to your space with some art from the Art of Zen shop.

Salman A

Salman A

Based in the vibrant city of Dubai, I thrive as a designer and filmmaker with a passion sparked in childhood by the thrilling adventures of UFO Robot Grendizer and Speed Racer. My journey took a deeper dive into the world of art through a profound fascination with Japanese culture, enriched by memorable times spent in Japan. Creativity pulses at the core of who I am. Connect with me for tailor-made design and film projects that bring your visions to life.

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