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July 30 Art Minute: Kawase Hasui, Yuhi Waterfall, Shiobara, from Souvenirs of Travel, First Series

Art Minute, Art of the Week
Kawase Hasui (Japanese, 1883–1957) Yuhi Waterfall, Shiobara, from Souvenirs of Travel, First Series. Color woodblock print, 1920. Published by Watanabe Shozaburo. Gift of Hubert D. Bennett, 1939.124. New Media Gallery.

The color woodblock landscapes of Japanese artist Kawase Hasui (1883–1957)—whether rugged mountains, quiet villages, evening harbors, or snowy shrines—are pervaded by a sense of peaceful calm. These contemplative scenes are occasionally ruffled by wind or rain, but rarely by the growing bustle of Japan’s cities in the 1910s and 20s.

Even as Japan was modernizing rapidly, shin hanga (“new prints”) artists like Hasui mostly avoided portraying strictly modern subjects, with only an occasional power pole or glimpse of electric light revealing the contemporary setting. They instead preferred to show the emotional power of a landscape by depicting secluded shrines and traditional villages—in all seasons and times of day—that could be scenes from the Edo period (1615–1868), when the artistic Japanese woodblock print was first developed.

This work is currently on view in the exhibition Sights & Sounds: Art, Nature and the Senses.