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THE ARTIST – KAWASE HASUI

This Japanese artist was not highly famous in Japan although he did make an impact in other countries.  Ranked as one of the greatest of all woodblock print artists in Japan, his work is definitely unique and detailed.  During the Shin Hanga movement, Kawase Hasui was one of the most talented and innovative masters.  In fact, his work was so amazing that prior to his death, it was declared a “Living National Treasure”. 

Born as Bunjiro in Tokyo, his family were merchants.  While many artists were focusing on Japanese styles, Kawase Hasui took interest in western styles.  His first lesson pertaining to art was watercolor and oils, taught by Saburosuke Okada.  As you can imagine, his family was not pleased with the direction his was taking, doing all they could to dissuade and even stop him.  Determined to get Kawase Hasui to work in the family’s merchant business, a huge conflict arose, causing the company to fall into bankruptcy. 

By the age of 26, Kawase Hasui had been accepted as a student of Kiyokata Kaburagi.  The only thing was this master focused on traditional Japanese style painting.  Unfortunately, soon after starting, Kawase Hasui was deemed to old to train so he was sent away.  After a few years, he was accepted into the Kiyokata School where his westernized style of painting was both recognized and appreciated.  During this time, he would meet Watanabe Shozaburo who was a master who spearheaded things associated with the Shin Hanga movement. 

Keep in mind that at this time, Ukiyo-e printmaking was virtually extinct.  Therefore, Watanabe created a group of talented but unknown artists, offering to pay them commissions for making woodblock prints.  The goal was to reach out to people who loved Japanese style art, along with the newer westernized style.  From 1918 to 1923, Kawase Hasui had created more than 100 woodblock prints, all published by Watanabe.  Because many of these woodblock prints were “different”, they were exported primarily to America. 

Unfortunately, Japan experienced one of the most horrific earthquakes in 1923, a time in which close to 150,000 people lost their lives.  With the hub of the earthquake being Tokyo and Yokohama, massive destruction followed.  One of the buildings demolished from the earthquake was Watanbe’s shop, along with all of Kawase Hasui’s woodprint blocks.  Additionally, Kawase Hasui’s sketchbooks were destroyed, which meant everyone had to start over again. 

Working hard, Kawase Hasui created some 400 new woodblock prints until 1957 when he died.  These prints consists of beautiful landscapes, specifically nightscapes and falling rain or snow.  Kawase Hasui seldom painted humans, preferring to focus his skill on peaceful scenery.  Another aspect of his prints that make them so special is the beautiful color.  Without doubt, Kawase Hasui’s style of woodblock prints is much different from what you would find from other Japanese artists but distinct and serene.


Read more about Japanese Woodblock Prints:
  Japanese Woodblock Prints   Ukiyo-e   Toyokuni Utagawa   Eisen Kikugawa   Hiroshige Ando   Utamaro Kitigawa

 

Visit our online store for dozens of Japanese Woodblock Prints

Click here to see our current selection.
 
The Great Wave by Hokusai
The Great Wave by Hokusai
Code:fw1002
Price:$27.95
Kabuki by Utagawa
Kabuki by Utagawa
Code:fw1121
Price:$27.95
3 Beauties by Utamaro
3 Beauties by Utamaro
Code:fw1118
Price:$27.95
General in Battle by Utagawa
General in Battle by Utagawa
Code:fw1120
Price:$27.95
Mt Fuji by Hiroshige
Mt Fuji by Hiroshige
Code:fw1010
Price:$27.95
 

 


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