For a little over a year, I’ve been sharing children’s book illustrations on Facebook every day. The best part is learning about so many new-to-me artists. In my online travels, I often stumble upon pieces I love that are not by children’s book illustrators, but prompt me to explore further.
This was the case with Japanese master woodblock printmaker Hasui Kawase (1883-1957), one of the most prominent artists of the shin-hanga (“new prints”) movement. Though I know very little about Japanese art, Hasui’s work spoke to me instantly. Such exquisite understated beauty! So peaceful and calming!
Born in Tokyo, he studied both Japanese and European painting techniques and is known as the “Master of Snow.” He liked to travel around Japan, sketching and making watercolors of scenic landscapes and townscapes, upon which he based his prints. The shin-hanga movement focused on traditional themes (landscapes, famous places, beautiful women, birds and flowers) but incorporated Western elements (effects of light, expression of moods).
Hasui considered himself a realist, and his prints express a certain longing for a bygone Japan during a time of rapid social and cultural change. His work is characterized by its delicacy, restraint, and flawless composition.