Monday, January 30, 2017

The Splendors of Japan and Kawase Hasui

The prints of Kawase Hasui grab the viewer's attention, not in the way I usually expect to see when I look at Japanese prints. They have something else, a Western influence. The way he creates his compositions and the elegance of his coloring of the prints includes a naturalistic sensibility for atmospheric perspective that most often associated with Western art. Hasui did, in fact, study Western art and the influence is clearly felt. His ability to create a depth of plane and delicate reflected landscape color even reminds me of some artwork from the American Southwest.
Hasui is easily adept at showing the activities of the working class, but his work does not often include people. He, like his Japanese colleagues, lets the viewer become mesmerized by the beauty of Nature itself.

Working in all seasons, this artist shows us Japan's eternal beauty and draws us like bees to a flower to see the vistas he presents.

Kawase Hasui (1883-1957) is one the great masters of the Shin Hanga movement, which incorporated Western tastes into traditional Japanese art. Their popularity is largely due to the efforts of Shozaburo Watanabe, a businessman who gathered young artists around him to learn the new European concepts of perspective, light and shade. Today, Shoichiro Wantanbe still issues Hasui prints from the original matrix designs.

Hasui was born in Tokyo and studied both Japanese and European painting techniques as a child. His interest in Japanese prints developed during his apprenticeship at the age of 27 with the famous Japanese artist, Kaburaki Kiyokata, and his friendship with another apprentice, Ito Shinsui.

Described as the master of Japanese landscape, Hasui’s intense blue night scenes and the designs showing snowfall or rain are hugely popular with their vivid colors and natural beauty. The artist's landscape work rarely shows people.

He traveled the length and breadth of Japan to create his art, sketching out a scenic landscape before adding color later. On his return visits to Tokyo, Watanabe's printshop would make Hasui’s matrixes for printing.Shortly before his death, the Japanese government declared Hasui’s artwork a Living National Treasure, the highest honor bestowed in modern-day Japan.

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