Kawase Hasui was one of the most prolific shin hanga artists of the early 20th century. Known for his landscapes, he designed hundreds of woodblock prints of temples, cityscapes and geological forms from all around Japan. Several characters are present in Kawase’s works; the weather, buildings and occasional passersby each have a unique personality.
While not an art collector by any means, it seems that many of Kawase’s wood blocks were destroyed in Tokyo’s Great Fire and Earthquake of September 1, 1923 which makes any prints before that event relatively rare and rather collectable. A few of this prints will be purchased for my sitting room once I rob a bank.
The shin hanga (新版画?, lit. “new prints”) art movement in early 20th century Japan, during the Taishō and Shōwa periods, revitalized traditional ukiyo-e art which had its roots in the Edo and Meiji periods (17th–19th century). It maintained the traditional ukiyo-e collaborative system (hanmoto system) where the artist, carver, printer, and publisher engaged in division of labor, as opposed to the sōsaku hanga (creative prints) movement which advocated the principles of “self-drawn” (jiga), “self-carved” (jikoku) and “self-printed” (jizuri), according to which the artist, with the desire of expressing the self, is the sole creator of art.
The term shin hanga was coined in 1915 by Watanabe Shōzaburō (1885-1962), the most important publisher of shin hanga, with the aim of differentiating shin hanga from the commercial mass art that ukiyo-e had been, though it was driven largely by exports to the United States. The movement flourished from around 1915 to 1942, though it resumed briefly from 1946 through the 1950s. Inspired by European Impressionism, the artists incorporated Western elements such as the effects of light and the expression of individual moods, but focused on strictly traditional themes of landscapes (fukeiga), famous places (meishō), beautiful women (bijinga), kabuki actors (yakusha-e), and birds and flowers (kachōga). [via Wikipedia]