This iconic print, from Hokusai's great series Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji, is instantly recognisable due to the extent to which this series has been reproduced throughout the world.
Hokusai was about seventy years old when he began the series and his fascination with depicting Mt Fuji was to continue until his death. At the centre of his art was the constant re-working of concepts and forms, which is clear to see in his many depictions of the famous mountain. In this case, on the surface there are minimal alterations when compared to the composition of another iconic print in the series, 'South Wind, Clear Sky' and yet upon closer inspection the two designs could not be more different. 'South Wind, Clear Sky' has a calm brightness to it, however the present print, with almost identical composition of mountain, trees and sky, has a dark agitation as a sudden storm sparks at the base of the mountain, with forks of lightning spiking across the lower slopes and the clouds have come down to cluster around the mountain.
Joseph Beck was a Quaker of German descent who ran the British optical company, R & J Beck. He was an avid collector of Japanese works of art and amassed a sizeable collection, buying at sales in London and America while on business trips. He also met ships in docks upon their return from Japan and bought directly from the captain and crew.1
1. Rupert Shephard, An Artist's Life, (Bristol, 2006)