The twelve works in this exhibition, by Japanese artist Kawase Hasui (1883-1957) belong to a collection of more than six hundred prints donated to VMFA by René and Carolyn Balcer. Created by Hasui between 1924 and 1953, the works displayed here, which depict scenes of mountains and hills across Japan, represent the country’s yet-untouched austerity, serenity, and beauty.
Hasui was trained in both traditional Japanese ink and Western oil painting. He worked primarily as a commercial illustrator until 1918 when, inspired by the works of Ito Shinsui (1898-1972), he began to create his own woodblock prints. Hasui’s first experimental prints were published by Watanabe Shozaburo, initiating a relationship that would last the rest of Hasui’s life.
Watanabe referred to the prints created by Hasui and his contemporaries as shin-hanga, meaning “new prints.” As collaborations involving artist, block carver, printer, and publisher, shin-hanga works emulated ukiyo-e printmaking. However, instead of the flat, stylized planes typical of ukiyo-e, shin-hanga prints, such as the ones seen here, used Western techniques of perspective and volumetric shading.