Wednesday, September 23, 2015
The Peace and Solitude of Shiro Kasamatsu's Prints
Kasamatsu started his art studies as a child, and in 1911 he became a student of Kaburagi Kiyokata, a master of the bijin-ga genre. He concentrated mainly on landscapes. Kasamatsu began to design woodblock prints for the popular print publisher Watanabe in 1919, whom he worked with until WWII. A lot of Kasamatsu’s blocks were lost in the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake and prints from that period are very hard to come by. In 1936, he was one of several Japanese artists included in a major exhibition of shin hanga printmaking at the Toledo Museum of Art.
From 1952-1960 he published over one hundred prints with a Kyoto publisher, called Unsodo. In the 1960s he began to print his own blocks in the Sosaku Hanga style and he continued to make prints, but he did not choose to promote them with a publisher. His work took a personal turn and he made the work out of his love for the medium and the subject.
Western collectors have been especially attracted to his landscapes which depict traditional Japanese life and landmarks. They have a romantic feel to them, and remind the viewer of some of the work of James McNeill Whistler’s paintings and prints. Shirō was influenced by Hiroshige’s ukiyo-e techniques to draw in the viewer and give an image depth. He became famous for his nighttime scenes in the rain and snow.
I think what attracted me to Shirō's prints initially was his simplicity and quietness. A peacefulness exudes from his works and that continues to attract print collectors today. The prices for his work are amazingly