Kawase Hasui (川瀬巴水) (Biographical details)

Kawase Hasui (川瀬巴水) (printmaker; Japanese; Male; 1883 - 1957)

Also known as

Kawase Hasui


Print artist. Born as Kawase Bunjiro in Tokyo. His father ran a silk-braid business and his mother was the sister of the comic writer Kanagaki Robun (1829-1884) whose connections with kabuki theatre were deep (see Clark, 1993, nos 33, 78, 79, 93); Hasui always retained theatre connections and designed actor portraits for the magazine 'Engei shashincho' in the 1920s and stage sets later in his life. Because of delicate health, which affected him all his life, he spent much time as a boy in the hot-spring resort of Shiobara (1987, 0316, 0518) where his aunt lived; his love of the Japanese landscape, and especially of scenes of snow, rain and mist, was born in those years. He received help in studying painting in 1897 from Aoyanagi Bokusen and in 1902 from Araki Kan'yu but was not able to take up art full time until 1908, when his father's business was transferred to a relative. In 1907 he began studying Western-style art, especially landscape, at the Hakuba-kai (White Horse Society) and took guidance from Okada Saburosuke (1869-1939); subsequently in 1910 he became a pupil of Kaburaki Kiyokata who gave him the art name Hasui, though the greatest influence on his style and palette was the 'Nihonga' painter Imamura Shiko (1880-1916). At this time he earned his living through designing 'sashi-e', magazine illustrations, posters and patterns for sashes. Through Kiyokata he became known to Watanabe Shozaburo, who published his first landscape prints in 1918-19. These in turn were first inspired by 'Eight Views of Omi' by his fellow-pupil Shinsui, which had aroused Hasui's interest in single-sheet prints (1946, 0209, 077 and 1946, 0209, 074). From then on Hasui worked very extensively as a designer of landscape prints for Watanabe, and from almost the beginning inspired the carvers and printers to produce newer and subtler efforts, especially in the expression of snow. These are evident in his series 'Tokyo Juni-dai' ('Twelve Tokyo Subjects', 1919-21). After the 1923 earthquake, when he lost his house and his sketchbooks, he was financed by Watanabe to go on a sketching trip to produce more series, and also worked occasionally for other publishers to eke out his income. He was strongly represented in both the Toledo exhibitions (Blair, Dorothy, 'A Special Exhibition of Modern Japanese Prints', Toledo Museum of Art, 1930; and Blair, Dorothy, 'Modern Japanese Prints: Woodblock Prints by Ten Artists: The work of the past five years', Toledo Museum of Art, 1936). During the Pacific War he spent much time back in Shiobara. After the war he was used by the Government to represent a gentler side of Japan in tourist publications, and in 1953 his 'Zojoji in Snow' was commissioned as an 'Intangible Cultural Asset' to represent the co-operative skills of the traditional print method. During his career he produced over 600 landscape prints, including seventeen series, covering most areas of Japan, which he constantly travelled. After a period of eclipse following his death, he has now become recognised as Japan's best print landscapist since Hiroshige.


Smith, Lawrence, 'Modern Japanese Prints 1912-1989: Woodblocks and Stencils', BMP, London, 1994, p. 27 and nos 38-9, 49.
Merritt, Helen, and Yamada, Nanako, 'Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints 1900-1975', University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1992, p. 47, and listings of all his known prints.
Narazaki, Muneshige (ed.), 'Kawase Hasui mokuhanga-shu', Mainichi Shinbun, Tokyo, 1979.
Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art (ed.), 'Jojo no shi Taisho Showa no fukei; Hangaka Kawase Hasui', exh. cat., 1990.
Merritt, Helen, 'Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: The Early Years', University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1990, pp. 54-6.
Paechter, Irwin J., 'Kawase Hasui and his Contemporaries', exh. cat., Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York, 1986, pp. 45-80.
Kawakita, Michiaki (ed.), 'Kindai Nihon bijutsu jiten', Kodansha, Tokyo, 1989.
Stephens, Amy Reigle (ed.), 'The New Wave: 20th Century Japanese Prints from the Robert V. Muller Collection', London and Leiden, 1993, pp. 139-52.