Kawase Hasui and Japan art: Lovely nature

Kawase Hasui and Japan art: Lovely nature

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Kawase Hasui (1883-1957) belongs to the world of Shin-Hanga (New Prints). His lifetime witnessed countless changing events in Japan. From being born during the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912) to the post-war period that ushered in democracy and reflection. In between, the Taisho Period (1912-1926), modernization, wars, and the long period of the Showa Period. 

Artistically, the Meiji Period witnessed the encroachment of various forms of Western art. This continued with further developments during the Taisho Period. However, some artists, including Hasui, kept alive the spirit of the old artistic world – while enjoining with new artistic concepts and color schemes concerning Shin-Hanga.

The tranquility of the art pieces in this article belies the internal and external convulsions that hit Japan throughout his lifetime. Hence, it is easy to imagine people feeling comfort – and a sense of continuity – within the art of Hasui and others. 

The Sompo Museum of Art says, “Hasui was inspired by breezes and spent his days traveling with the sun, clouds, and rain, painting the scenery of all four seasons of Japan. This was also a journey to seek the scenery of old times. One of the key supporters of woodblock production was Shozaburo Watanabe, a woodblock print publisher and leader of the shin-hanga (new prints) movement. Their strong desire to create something special lead them to strive for woodblock prints that could also be appreciated overseas. Hasui’s landscape prints are admired for their soothing effects.”

Art for individuals like Hasui provided an enormous purpose for himself – and others who would share his artwork. Thus the landscape of Japan, the changing seasons, Buddhism, Shintoism, and serenity were all shaped by Hasui’s art. 

The British Museum says, “Through Kiyokata he became known to Watanabe Shozaburo, who published his first landscape prints in 1918-19. These in turn were first inspired by ‘Eight Views of Omi’ by his fellow-pupil Shinsui, which had aroused Hasui’s interest in single-sheet prints... From then on Hasui worked very extensively as a designer of landscape prints for Watanabe, and from almost the beginning inspired the carvers and printers to produce newer and subtler efforts, especially in the expression of snow.” 

Overall, Hasui produced countless stunning pieces of art.

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