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Reference » Ukiyo-e »  Artists Biographies

Hasui Kawase 1883-1957

Kawase Hasui was one of the important printmakers of the Shin Hanga (New Print) movement. He is best known for his landscape prints.

Hasui was born into a merchant family in Tokyo and given the name Bunjiro. As a child he was taught traditional Japanese brush work by Aoyagi Bokusen and later by Araki Kan-yu. Although he was inherited his family business, Hasui’s wish to be an artist was so great that he gave it up to his sister. At the same time Hasui was recommended to try out oil paintings under the master, Okada Saburonosuke in Hakuba Art Group. 

In his mid-20s, Hasui applied to enter the school of Kaburagi Kiyokata, an established traditional Japanese-style painter with the recognition of Japanese paintings were of interest to him. But Kiyokata first rejected him considering him too old. Hasui was accepted on his second application two years later, and it did not take long for Kiyokata to notice Hasui's artistic talent. 
In 1910, he was given his artist name ‘Hasui’.

Hasui's paintings were shown at several exhibitions along with the works of Kiyokata's students including Ito Shinsui, whose print series, "Eight Views of Omi", is thought to have inspired the artist. He then contacted Watanabe Shozaburo, a Tokyo publisher who initiated the Shin Hanga movement. In 1918, Watanabe published Hasui's prints
for the first time depicting hot springs in Shiobara, of which sketches he had made even before entering Kiyokata's school. This was the beginning of Hasui's life-long cooperation with the publisher.

Hasui had designed more than 100 prints for Watanabe by the time the publisher's shops as well as the woodblocks for those prints were destroyed in the fire following the Great Kanto Earthquake. As a result, his prints and other works by Watanabe’s artists, published just before the catastrophic quake, are considered rare and sought after. This is particularly unfortunate in the case of Hasui as his early works including the series
Tokyo Juni Dai (Twelve Places of Tokyo)’ are recognised to be his most original art works. 

Hasui travelled frequently almost every year during his career as an artist. He visited the countryside, towns and cities in Japan, making sketches of the sceneries. His prints often feature the moon, reddening leaves in autumn and reflections on water surface, while people are hardly depicted in his print designs. These factors make the viewers of his prints feel quietude and peace. Yet it is his masterful depiction of snow falls that is most remarkable about Hasui's prints. 

In 1953, Hasui was commissioned by the Japanese government to create a print entitled "Snow at Zojoji Temple", which was then designated as an Intangible Cultural Treasure. In 1956, the government, in recognition of his invaluable contribution to the woodblock print medium, designated Hasui a Living National Treasure. 

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  • The Evening Moon at Nakashima
  • Musago no yama (Mountain in Musago)
  • Lake Kizaki in Shinshu