Kawase Hasui (1883-1957) is one the great masters of the Shin Hanga movement. Shortly before his death, the Japanese government declared his art work a Living National Treasure, the highest honor bestowed in modern-day Japan.
Shin Hanga, or “new prints” incorporated Western tastes and eye for beauty into traditional Japanese art. Their popularity is largely due to the efforts of Shozaburo Watanabe, a keen businessman who gathered young artists around him to learn the new European concepts of perspective, light and shade. Today, Shoichiro Wantanbe continues the long family tradition, and still issues Hasui prints from the original woodblock designs.
Hasui was born in Tokyo and studied both Japanese and European painting techniques as a child. His interest in Japanese woodblock prints developed during his apprenticeship at the age of 27 with the famous Japanese painter, Kaburaki Kiyokata, and his friendship with another apprentice, Ito Shinsui.
The master of landscape prints, Hasui’s intense blue night scenes and the designs showing snowfall or rain are hugely popular with their vivid colouring and entrancing natural beauty. The artist's landscape prints hardly ever show people, partially because he was nearsighted and needed to wear thick glasses to see details. People also would not stand still long enough for him to work. He traveled the length and breadth of Japan to create his art, sketching out a scenic landscape before him then adding color later. On his return visits to Tokyo, Watanabe's wood carvers would make the blocks for printing.