A Tour of the Waterfalls of the Provinces
Completed c. 1833–34 and containing eight prints, it was the first ukiyo-e series to approach the theme of falling water, and was acclaimed for its innovative and expressive depictions. The waterfalls take up most of each sheet, dwarfing the scenes' human inhabitants, and are rendered by Hokusai with a powerful sense of life, reflecting his animistic beliefs.
In Japan's Shintoist religion, gods and spirits inhibit the surrounding nature, such as trees, rocks or animals. In the Waterfall series, using newly imported blue Prussian pigment that was fashionable at that time, Hokusai paints each waterfall differently, in order to emphasize the unique beauty of each site and to outline his belief that water was sacred.
The waterfalls Hokusai chose to illustrate are located in the central, western and eastern parts of Japan's main island (Honshu). The regions chosen were well known for pilgriming and by the travelers of his time, while three of the waterfalls, Kirifuri, Amida and Yōrō, are among Japan's 100 most beautiful even today. All the prints are in vertical format and in their composition there is sometimes included human or animal forms which appear to be insignificant in front of the plummeting water. Unlike most of his other works, in the Waterfalls series Hokusai uses more color, in order to highlight the new and main theme: the falling water. Besides using imported blue pigments either from Berlin or Prussia, the artist also adds contrasting yellows, browns and greens to paint the surrounding forested mountains.