KAWASE HASUI, 1883 – 1957
Known for his exquisite landscape prints, Kawase Hasui was one of the earliest, most prolific and talented shin hanga artists of the early 20th century. Many people feel that Hasui's most original work was done at the beginning of his career. Unfortunately, the blocks for these early prints were destroyed in the devastating 1923 earthquake and they were never reprinted. Consequently, Hasui's pre-earthquake prints are among the rarest and most sought-after shin hanga. As Hasui matured, however, he was able to perfect his ability to convey a particular feeling with his intricate designs.
Hasui was born with the given name Bunjiro in Tokyo as the son of a merchant family. As a child Hasui learned to paint in Western style. His family wanted Hasui to work in the family business and blocked his artistic endeavors. The conflict was solved when the family business went into bankruptcy.
Like Hiroshi Yoshida, Hasui traveled constantly and filled sketchbooks with his drawings of scenic places around Japan. He preferred to work directly from nature and became a true master of landscape prints. Particularly famous are his night scene prints and prints showing snow fall or rain. Like no other artist he was capable of creating moods with his designs.
In 1956 Kawase was named a Living National Treasure by the Japanese government. It is the greatest honor an artist can experience in post-war Japan and he was the first to receive this outstanding title. He died only one year after this great honor at the age of 74. The artist produced more than 400 woodblock designs.