In Hokusai’s series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, Rainstorm Beneath the Summit appears immediately after, and in contrast to, a similar composition, South Wind, Clear Sky. Whereas South Wind, Clear Sky depicts the eastern slope of Fuji on a fair weather morning, Rainstorm Beneath the Summit shows the opposite side of the mountain on a dark and stormy evening. Both prints are highly abstract, making subtle use of gradients to achieve complex atmospheric effects, and are regarded as among the finest examples of Japanese printmaking.
Believed to hold the secret of immortality, Mount Fuji held special significance for Hokusai, who pined for the years necessary to perfect his art. In the postscript to One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji he wrote:
“From the age of six, I had a passion for copying the form of things and since the age of fifty I have published many drawings, yet of all I drew by my seventieth year there is nothing worth taking in to account. At seventy-three years I partly understood the structure of animals, birds, insects and fishes, and the life of grasses and plants. And so, at eighty-six I shall progress further; at ninety I shall even further penetrate their secret meaning, and by one hundred I shall perhaps truly have reached the level of the marvelous and divine. When I am one hundred and ten, each dot, each line will possess a life of its own.”
Though Hokusai did not live past 88, the artistic immortality that he did achieve owes more to Fuji than to any other motif.