Dec. 24 Art Minute: Kawase Hasui, Zojo Temple, Shiba, from "Twenty Views of Tokyo"
One of the most prolific of all shin hanga printmakers, Kawase Bunjirō was born into a merchant family and raised in the Shiba district of Tokyo. During a long illness he became interested in drawing and painting, and in 1897 he began to study with the painter Kawabata Gyokushō (1842–1913). However, he had to give up his education after only two years in order to take over his family’s business. Hasui was eventually able to resume his studies, this time with Kaburagi Kiyokata (1878–1972). It was not until 1910 that Kiyokata gave him his gō (artist’s name) “Hasui,” meaning “born of the reeds.” While studying at Kiyokata’s academy, Hasui met and befriended a fellow artist, Itō Shinsui; after seeing Shinsui’s print series “Eight Views of Omi,” Hasui was inspired to create woodblock prints.
Hasui loved to travel and would often paint watercolors of Japan's most beautiful places. In 1918 he began a long collaboration with publisher Watanabe Shōzaburō, making prints from his original paintings. In the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923, both Hasui's house and Watanabe’s studio were destroyed, along with most of Hasui’s work. Undaunted, Hausi soon set out on another journey, creating more designs for a print series that Watanabe published in 1924. Hasui continued to work for Watanabe until the artist’s death in 1957. Near the end of his career, in 1952, the Japanese government officially recognized Hasui for his contributions to the art of printmaking.
This work is currently on display in the exhibition Sights and Sounds: Art, Nature, and the Senses.