Modern woodblock prints by Kawase Hasui (1883-1957)

(posted on May 16, 2024)

       This is an iconic woodblock print depicting Zo-jyoji (a Buddhist temple)

         as part of his twenty landscapes of Tokyo published in 1925. 


I visited an exhibition of modern woodblock prints at an art museum in Hachioji, Metropolitan Tokyo on April 16, 2024. The exhibition was entitled “Travel and nostalgic landscape”. Kawase is regarded by many as an artist who tried to reinvigorate traditional ukiyo-e art that had been somewhat sidelined with the advent of photography and western printing technology. Kawase was born in Tokyo, his father was a craftsman. So, he followed in his father’s footsteps initially but soon decided to be an artist. Firstly, as an oil painter, then water color artist in traditional style. As time went, Kawase felt uneasy with his own artistic style. Things changed when Kawase, at the age of 35, encountered new methods of woodblock prints of landscapes, which impressed him profoundly. This was a decisive moment for Kawase in becoming a woodblock artist. 


     A pond at Benten shrine, Tokyo              A bridge at Fukagawa, Tokyo


An old footpath surrounded by

cedar trees heading for Nikko.    Yamanashi prefecture






Did you know that Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., was a keen collector of Kawase’s woodblock prints? Kawase followed the steps of ukiyoe masters and became a master himself. I would like to mention that there were other woodblock artists who took up the art of woodblocks to express their artistic inspiration as indicated by Munakata Shiko (1903-1975), an iconic woodblock artist of modern times.



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