Shop art print and framed art The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife by Hokusai

The artwork
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Subjects : Fantasy
Keywords : 19th century, Asia, Japan, history, monster, print, woman
The artwork

The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife

Hokusai's Dream of the Fisherman's Wife: an iconic work of art

The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife is a fascinating masterpiece by the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, who left an indelible mark on the world of prints. This intriguing and mysterious work invites viewers to plunge into a dreamlike universe, where human passions and the forces of nature seem to intertwine.

The main characteristics of the print

The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife belongs to the artistic series Kinoe no Komatsu, produced by Hokusai in the early 19th century. This erotic print (known as a "shunga"), depicts an intimate scene between a young woman lying on her back and a sea creature: a giant squid. The dynamic composition and vibrant colours help to create a powerful visual impact that captures the imagination.

Themes covered

  • Eroticism : As a shunga, this print openly expresses sexuality and sensuality, with mythological and fantastical connotations. The voluptuous forms of the woman, the lascivious movements of the sea creatures and the emotional intensity suggest a fusion between human desire and animal impulses.
  • The dream : The dreamlike atmosphere of the print, with its unreal and symbolic elements, suggests a mixture of imagination and reality, often associated with dreaming. This dream motif also reinforces the idea of fleeting, unattainable pleasure, which may recall Japanese folk tales of forbidden love or uncontrollable passions.
  • The human-nature relationship : The print explores the close relationship between human beings and nature, represented by the female and marine figures, respectively. This connection manifests itself through the sensual and critical interaction of the protagonists, as well as through their harmonious coexistence in an imaginary aquatic space.

Hokusai's artistic style

Hokusai's influence as the great master of ukiyo-e (images of the floating world) is clearly visible in this print. Among the various stylistic elements characteristic of his work are:

  • Expressive lines : The drawing in the print is based on a precise, fluid line, which brings the characters to life and accentuates their passionate attitudes. Hokusai also mastered the kirazuri (brush printing) technique to create textures and shading.
  • The colour scheme : The choice of bright, contrasting hues lends remarkable vitality to the print, while reinforcing its emotional impact. Shades of blue, for example, evoke the sea or water, while flesh tones are used to highlight the female body.
  • Machining : The artist demonstrates exceptional skill in wood engraving, which enables the fine details and volumes of the figures to be reproduced. This traditional method requires great craftsmanship, as well as rigorous control of materials and tools.

The historical and cultural context of the Edo period

It is essential to place this work in its socio-cultural context in order to better understand its aesthetic codes, artistic influences and reception by the Japanese public. In particular:

  • The production and distribution of prints : During the Edo period, the print trade expanded spectacularly, thanks to technical innovations, government regulation and the growing consumption of the urban middle classes. Shunga works, like this one, were often kept in private collections, shared between friends or sold discreetly on the markets.
  • The influence of popular literature and art : Japanese prints draw some of their inspiration from Japan's rich literary, folk and theatrical tradition. The story of The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife could be inspired by an ancient legend, a naughty poem or a boldly contoured kabuki play.
  • The relationship between the artist and the merchants : Hokusai, like many other ukiyo-e artists, worked closely with publishers, printers and print sellers, who formed a complex network of collaboration and competition. They were also subject to political and economic constraints, sometimes imposed by the shogunal government.


This artwork is a poster from the classical period. It belongs to the japanese print style.


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