Kawase Hasui (1883-1957) was a Japanese artist who is best known for his woodblock prints of landscapes and cityscapes. Hasui was born in Tokyo and initially trained as a painter, studying with Yamamoto Shunkyo and Kaburagi Kiyokata. In 1918, Hasui began working as a designer for the Tokyo-based publisher Watanabe Shozaburo, which specialized in producing woodblock prints for the Western market.
Hasui’s prints were characterized by their subtle colors and delicate sense of atmosphere. He was particularly skilled at capturing the beauty of Japan’s natural landscapes, and his prints often depicted mountains, lakes, and snowscapes. Kawase Hasui was known for his careful and skillful use of color in his woodblock prints. He often used soft, muted colors that conveyed a sense of tranquility and calm. Some of the colors that are commonly found in his work include:
- Shades of blue: Hasui often used shades of blue to depict water, sky, and shadows. These blues range from soft, pale hues to deeper, more vibrant shades.
- Greens: Hasui frequently used various shades of green to depict foliage and vegetation, such as the leaves of trees, bushes, and grass.
- Earth tones: Hasui often used muted browns, grays, and other earth tones to depict rocks, mountains, and other natural elements.
- Pastels: Hasui often used soft, pastel colors to create a delicate and dreamlike atmosphere in his prints. These pastels might include pale pinks, yellows, and purples.
- Contrasting colors: While Hasui’s work is generally characterized by a soft and muted color palette, he would occasionally use bold, contrasting colors to add emphasis or drama to certain elements of his compositions.
Overall, Hasui’s use of color was a key element in his ability to capture the beauty and tranquility of Japan’s landscapes in his woodblock prints.
Hasui’s work was highly influential in the development of the shin-hanga or “new print” movement, which sought to revitalize traditional woodblock printmaking techniques in the early 20th century.
Kawase Hasui was a significant figure in the Shin Hanga movement because his work embodied many of the key principles and values of the movement. Shin Hanga was a revivalist movement in Japanese printmaking that emerged in the early 20th century, which sought to create a new form of ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock prints) that reflected modern sensibilities and techniques.
Hasui’s prints were highly regarded for their ability to capture the essence of Japan’s landscapes and cityscapes in a way that was both traditional and modern. He used traditional woodblock printing techniques to create his prints, but also incorporated modern techniques and materials to create a unique style that appealed to contemporary audiences.
Hasui’s work was also notable for its attention to detail, use of color, and strong composition. His prints often featured a single focal point, such as a temple or mountain, which was surrounded by a detailed and harmonious landscape.
In addition to his artistic abilities, Hasui was also a key figure in the commercial success of the Shin Hanga movement. He worked closely with publishers to create prints that were both beautiful and marketable, and his prints quickly gained popularity both in Japan and abroad.
Hasui’s career was interrupted by World War II, and he was forced to cease printing for a time. Kawase Hasui’s career was interrupted by World War II because of the Japanese government’s control over the production and distribution of art during the war. During this time, the government implemented strict censorship laws and heavily regulated the arts to support their military efforts.
The government controlled the production of woodblock prints, and many artists were forced to produce propaganda posters or other works that supported the war effort. As a result, Hasui’s work, which was primarily focused on landscapes and cityscapes, was deemed to be unsuitable for the wartime atmosphere.
Furthermore, Hasui’s artistic style, which was influenced by Western art, was also considered to be incompatible with the nationalist and traditionalist values promoted by the Japanese government during the war. Consequently, Hasui’s ability to produce and distribute his prints was severely curtailed during this time.
Despite these challenges, Hasui continued to work on his art during the war, albeit on a smaller scale. After the war, he resumed his work and continued to produce prints until his death in 1957. Today, Hasui’s prints from before and after the war are highly sought after by collectors around the world.
Here are the Top 5 Kawase Hasui Prints that collectors seek:
- “Sudden Shower over Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Atake” (1932) – This print is one of Hasui’s most famous and depicts a sudden rainstorm over the Shin-Ohashi Bridge in Tokyo. The print features the bridge in the foreground and the city’s buildings and boats in the background, all shrouded in a misty rain.
- “Moon at Magome” (1930) – This print is a serene and tranquil depiction of the moon over the Magome Pass, which is located in the Kiso Valley in central Japan. The print features a small mountain village nestled in a valley with the moon shining brightly overhead.
- “Zojoji Temple in Snow” (1929) – This print depicts the Zojoji Temple, one of Tokyo’s most famous Buddhist temples, in the snow. The print features the temple’s iconic five-story pagoda in the foreground and a large snow-covered tree in the background.
- “Lake Chuzenji in Autumn” (1929) – This print depicts Lake Chuzenji, located in the mountains north of Tokyo, during the autumn season. The print features the lake surrounded by colorful trees, with a mountain range in the background.
- “Night at Matsushima” (1928) – This print depicts the famous Matsushima Bay in northeastern Japan at night. The print features the bay’s famous pine-covered islands in the foreground, with a full moon shining in the sky and reflecting on the water.
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