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Lake at Chuzenji Temple
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Artist:  Hasui Kawase

Kawase Hasui was one of the most talented, prolific and recognised artists of the Shin Hanga (New Print) movement. He is best known for his landscape prints.

Hasui was born into a merchant family in Tokyo and given the name Bunjiro. As a child he learned basic brush work from Aoyagi Bokusen and later studied with a painter Araki Kan-yu. At the age of 19, he became a student of Okada Saburosuke and learned oil painting.

In his mid-20s, with his interest in Japanese-style painting growing, Hasui applied to enter the school of Kaburagi Kiyokata, an established traditional Japanese-style painter. But Kiyokata first rejected him, considering him too old. Hasui was accepted on his second application two years later, and it did not take long for Kiyokata to notice Hasui's artistic talent.

Hasui's paintings were shown at several exhibitions along with the works of Kiyokata's students including Ito Shunsui, whose print series, "Eight Views of Omi", is thought to have inspired the artist. He then contacted Watanabe Shozaburo, a Tokyo publisher who initiated the Shin Hanga movement. In 1918, Watanabe published Hasui's prints depicting hot springs in Shiobara, of which sketches he had made even before entering Kiyokata's school. This was the beginning of Hasui's life-long cooperation with the publisher.

Hasui had designed more than 100 prints for Watanabe by the time the publisher's shop and the blocks for these prints of the artist were destroyed in the fire following the Great Kanto Earthquake. As a result, his prints, along with the other artists' works published by Watanabe before the catastrophic quake, are rare and sought after. This is particularly unfortunate in the case of Hasui?Ǭfs prints because his early works, including the series Tokyo Juni Dai, or "Twelve Places of Tokyo", are widely considered his most original.

Hasui travelled frequently, almost every year during his career as an artist. He visited the countryside, towns and cities in Japan, making sketches of the sceneries. His prints often feature the moon, reddening leaves in autumn and reflections on water surface, while people are hardly depicted in his print designs. These factors make the viewers of his prints feel quietude and peace. Yet it is his masterful depiction of snow falls that is most remarkable about Hasui's prints.

In 1953, Hasui was commissioned by the Japanese government to create a print entitled "Snow at Zojoji Temple", which was then designated as an Intangible Cultural Treasure. In 1956, the government, in recognition of his invaluable contribution to the woodblock print medium, designated Hasui a Living National Treasure.


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