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
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
Keep in mind that at this time, Ukiyo-e printmaking
Watanabe created a group of talented but unknown artists,
offering to pay them commissions for making woodblock
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.