The Easel

From the Great Wave to Starry Night, how a blue pigment changed the world

Perhaps Hokusai’s Great Wave is less than quintessentially Japanese? Its ‘Prussian blue” pigment and European concept of perspective made it too radical for local tastes. Europe, in contrast, was highly receptive. “Perhaps the single most vividly identifiable influence upon the European modernist founders is Van Gogh’s celebrated Starry Night, which owes everything to Hokusai’s blue wave from its colour to the shape of its sky.”