New publication on Kawase Hasui

Kawase Hasui, Singing Lesson, two panel screen, painting, ca. 1915. Balcer Collection

Kawase Hasui, Singing Lesson, two panel screen, painting, ca. 1915. Balcer Collection

Hotei Publishing has published a new title on landscape artist Kawase Hasui (1883-1957) in collaboration with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond: Water and Shadow. Kawase Hasui and Japanese Landscape Prints. The publication is based on an American private collection of Hasui prints: the Rene and Caroline Balcer collection and it presents the latest scholarship on Kawase Hasui. Main author and editor of this large square sized book is Kendall H. Brown, a long time expert on the life and work of Hasui. Essays are contributed by James King, Koyama Shūko, Miya Elise Mizuta and Shimizu Hisao.

The book concentrates on Hasui’s early work from 1918-1923, his so-called pre-earthquake works. In 1923 Tokyo was hit by a devastating earthquake and Koyama Shūko mentions that during that earthquake some 180 sketchbooks of Hasui were destroyed (p. 42).
In the fascinating opening chapter Brown sketches Hasui’s career (including his activities as illustrator) and the state of the field of Hasui studies. He also writes that Hasui is so popular in Japan, that since 2000 an exhibition of his work is held every year (p. 1). Another section in the chapter addresses the developing trajectory of a few prints from water color to proof prints to final print. And in the last section Brown brings Hasui’s work in the context of scholarly theories concerning the landscape in art. This chapter is richly illustrated, amongst others with three beautiful two-panel-screen-paintings by Hasui. Singing Lesson is a painting which can be considered a rare work among the many landscapes produced by Hasui.

Kawase Hasui. Ferryboat landing at Tsukishima, woodblock print, 1921. Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington.

Kawase Hasui. Ferryboat landing at Tsukishima, woodblock print, 1921. Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington.

In the article of James King the work of Hasui is related with that of another well-known landscape designer, Utagawa Hiroshige, and the artist contemporary to Hasui, Itō Shinsui. Hasui’s travels and the culture of travel in Taishō period Japan are brought together in an interesting essay by Koyama Shūko. The activities of Hasui’s publisher Watanabe Shōzaburō are subject of Shimizu Hisao’s contribution.

The catalogue section presents full page illustrations of the pre-earthquake prints and in the back matter of the book a concise biographical timeline of Hasui’s life is given, followed by a photo presentation displaying the printing stages in the creation of a woodblock print.

Kendall H. Brown (et al.), Water and Shadow. Kawase Hasui and Japanese Landscape Prints, Leiden: Hotei Publishing with Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2014. 216 pages, with 385 color illustrations. ISBN 9789004284654.