Of Trees, Tenderness, and the Moon: Hasui Kawase’s Stunning Japanese Woodblock Prints from the 1920s-1950s

“After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on– have discovered that none of these lastly satisfy, or permanently wear– what remains?” the aging Walt Whitman asked in his journal as he pondered what makes life worth living while recovering from a paralytic stroke, then addressed: “Nature remains … the trees, fields, the modifications of seasons– the sun by day and the stars of paradise by night.”

When the organization went insolvent in the early twentieth century, the twenty-six-year-old Kawase devoted himself wholly to art, using to apprentice with one of the terrific masters of transitional Japanese woodblock printing. The master rejected him, motivating him to expand his perceptiveness and to establish his style by studying Western painting.

Moon at Magome, 1930. (Available as a print.) Born into a Tokyo household of rope and thread merchants, Hasui Kawase (May 18, 1883– November 7, 1957) matured dreaming of becoming an artist. His parents pushed him to continue in their course, however he continued following his own, drawing peaceful motivation from the example of his maternal uncle– the creator of the first manga magazine.

A century after Whitmans birth, on the other side of a world freshly disillusioned with its own mankind after the First World War, a young Japanese man was embarking on a life of commemorating the endless consolations of nature in uncommonly poetic visual art.

He did take control of the household service, but he was moonlighting in art while running it– sketching from nature, copying one masters woodblock prints, learning brush painting from another.

2 years later on, he applied once again.

Snow on Lake, 1922. (Available as a print.) However amongst all of natures beauties, absolutely nothing influenced him more than trees– those everlasting muses of researchers, theorists, artists, and poets alike– and what Margaret Fuller so unforgettably called “that best truth, the Moon.”

As he started his next series, nature and night beckoned to him a growing number of.

Over the next thirty-five years, Hasui ended up being a master of shin hanga– the “new prints” movement fusing standard Japanese art, the art of shadows, with the Western aesthetic appeals of light and the European novelty of point of view. He went on to create several hundred consummate woodblock prints, watercolors, oil paintings, and hanging scrolls, animated by a tender respect for the appeal and majesty of nature. Among all of natures appeals, absolutely nothing motivated him more than trees– those eternal muses of researchers, poets, artists, and thinkers alike– and what Margaret Fuller so unforgettably called “that finest reality, the Moon.”

Autumn Rainbow at Hatta, Kaga, 1924. (Available as a print.) Over the next thirty-five years, Hasui became a master of shin hanga– the “brand-new prints” movement fusing conventional Japanese art, the art of shadows, with the Western aesthetic appeals of light and the European novelty of viewpoint. He went on to develop a number of hundred consummate woodblock prints, watercolors, oil paintings, and hanging scrolls, animated by a tender respect for the beauty and majesty of nature. One hundred of them are collected in the lavish annotated volume Visions of Japan: Kawase Hasuis Masterpieces (public library).

Kankai Pavilion at Wakaura Beach, 1950. (Available as a print.)Enhance with Japanese-American artist Chiura Obatas sensational paintings of Yosemite from the exact same period, then revisit an extremely different take on tree silhouettes from Hasuis American contemporary Art Young.

Hasui captured the enchantment of snowfall with especial loveliness, his complex lines challenging the artisans he employed in sculpting his woodblock develops to increase to new levels of workmanship.

The master accepted him, conferring upon him the lyrical name Hasui– an ideogram of his family name merged with the name of his boyhood school, most closely translated as “water deriving from the source.”

Spring Moon at Ninomiya Beach, 1931. (Available as a print.) Hasui was thirty-five– the age Whitman was when he staggered the world with his Leaves of Grass– when he made his artistic launching with a series of experimental woodblock prints, illustrating the mainly empty streets of Tokyo and the unpeopled landscapes of the countryside.

It leveled his workshop, destroying the ended up woodblocks and fomenting in him an even more intimate sense of the sublimity of nature.

Winter Season Moon at Toyamagahara, 1931. (Available as a print.) Spring Night at Inokashira, 1931. (Available as a print.) In landscape after landscape, the stunning silhouettes of the matsu (Japans iconic evergreen, symbols of fortitude and nerve) and the sugi (the enormous old-growth cedars, symbols of power and durability) reach into the noctrune towards the crescent and lean into the gloaming hour, backlit by the full Moon.

Crescent Moon and Tea Houses, Kanazawa, 1920s. (Available as a print.) Hikawa Park in Omiya, 1930. (Available as a print.) Moon over Arakawa River, 1929. (Available as a print.) In the last year of his life, the Japanese federal government categorized Hasui as a Living National Treasure. Comparable to the American National Medal of Arts and Humanities, Japans greatest civilian honor is bestowed upon those whose lifes work renders them, in what might be the most poetic federal government certification in any language, “Preservers of Important Intangible Cultural Properties.”

Moon Over Akebi Bridge, 1935. (Available as a print.) And after that, on an otherwise ordinary Saturday the autumn after his fortieth birthday, the merging limit between 2 tectonic plates deep in the body of the Earth burst, releasing the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923. It leveled his workshop, destroying the completed woodblocks and fomenting in him a much more intimate sense of the sublimity of nature.

Hasui was thirty-five– the age Whitman was when he staggered the world with his Leaves of Grass– when he made his creative debut with a series of experimental woodblock prints, illustrating the mostly empty streets of Tokyo and the unpeopled landscapes of the countryside.