Since 2006, renowned collectors René Balcer and Carolyn Hsu-Balcer have given VMFA more than 500 works created by Japanese landscape artist Kawase Hasui (1883–1957). The 12 woodblock prints featured here are drawn from that generous gift. Created from the 1920s through the 1950s, these 12 prints depict seasonal flowers found at numerous sites across Japan, including its ancient capitals, historic landmarks, and rural mountains. Hasui captured cherry blossoms at Arashiyama in Kyoto, wildflowers on the Senjo Plain in Nikko, crabapple blossoms at the Myōhon Temple in Kamakura, and the iris garden at Meiji-jingo shrine in Tokyo.
Dahlia, lotus, lily, and azalea are also depicted. These works reveal Hasui’s passion for nature, his sketching expertise and proficient use of color, while illustrating the history, mystery, and serenity of Japan. Born in Tokyo, Hasui was trained in traditional Japanese painting, watercolor, and oil painting. In 1910, he began to study woodblock prints with Kaburaki Kiyokata (1878–1972).
Early in his career, Hasui worked primarily as an illustrator for magazines and in advertising. His career path changed in 1918 when his first experimental prints, known as shin-hanga (new prints), were published by Watanabe Shōzaburō (1885–1962), initiating a collaboration that lasted for the rest of Hasui’s life. Curated by Li Jian, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Curator of East Asian Art, VMFA.