Katsushika Hokusai was a Japanese artist, renowned during the Edo period for his paintings, prints, and woodblocks. As a child, he worked in a bookshop and later as an apprentice to a wood carver. He studied wood block printing from Katsukawa Shunshō and published his first prints in 1779.
Hokusai's work was greatly influenced by Chinese art of the time. He was famous for his block prints and his series One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji is generally considered a masterpiece. Hokusai had extensive influence in art, and even inspired European artists. He also prompted the Art Nouveau movement in Europe.
The Fuji from Gotenyama at Shinagawa on the Tokaido is a view of Mount Fuji from the Tokaido Highway. The print is one of a series of woodblock prints called Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji. Despite its name, the series however has 46 blocks, since ten were added at a later date to the series. The Fuji from Gotenyama at Shinagawa on the Tokaido is the first among those added subsequently.
The picture shows picnic spot, with people chatting, relaxing, and eating under the shade of cherry trees, which dominate the landscape. Beyond the picnic spot are hills, and the Sagami Bay stretches out into the distance. The sky is a clear blue, indicating a nice day for picnicking families. Far in the background, Mount Fuji can be seen. The mountain is not the focus of the picture at all. It is the cherry blossoms which take up all the attention with their lovely and eye-catching pink shade. The picture on the whole presents a very serene and relaxed atmosphere of people having fun.
The prevalence of the mountain in Hokusai's works has a religious significance since Mount Fuji is a representation of immortal and eternal life in Japanese Buddhism. Hokusai was a Buddhist of the Nichiren sect and hence gave special attention to the sacred mountain in his various art works. The Fuji from Gotenyama at Shinagawa on the Tokaido was originally created in 1833 and is currently housed in the British Museum.