Masterpieces on the Mall

The most famous depiction today of a wave may be Hokusai’s block print, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.” Not only is it a beautiful, stylized evocation of the sea’s power but also a layered testament to the illusion of solidity (Mount Fuji poking up in the background) and human frailty (those poor fishermen cowering in their about-to-be inundated boats).

You’ve seen versions of this print everywhere from surf shops to art museums, and now you can see the real thing at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery on the Mall in Washington D.C.

Don’t miss it, part of a stunning exhibition of all of Hokusai’s prints in his Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. First published in 1831 and a milestone in Japanese art, Hokusai’s innovative composition emphasizes landscape in a new, vital way. (On display through mid-June).

The mountain remains a constant in this affecting panorama of various aspects of 19th-century Japanese life, part of a larger exhibition of Hokusai’s work in the adjoining Freer Gallery (Hokusai: Japanese Screens, and Paintings and DrawingsHokusai: Japanese Screens, and Paintings and DrawingsHokusai: Japanese Screens, and Paintings and Drawings).

For a continuation of this extraordinary, literally once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, skip across the Mall to the West Wing of the National Gallery of Art for the exhibit, Colorful Realm: Japanese Bird-and-Flower Paintings by Ito Jakuchu.

Never before shown outside Japan, these 30 gorgeous scrolls are masterpieces on silk and another milestone in the inspirational power of nature and technical innovation in Japanese art. (On display through April 29).

James Conaway is a featured contributor on Intelligent Travel, and writes freelance for National Geographic Traveler and other publications devoted to travel, history, and culture. Read more from James on his wine blog.

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