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Early - demons 10.25'' x 14 78''.jpg

An Idiot's Guide:
Collect Like A Connoisseur 

A word about the artist formally known as Kawase Hasui

Updated: Oct 21, 2023

In 1920, Hasui released his first falling snow print, receiving resounding international acclaim from both collectors and critics alike, quickly becoming his most recognizable and desirable subject theme. The purifying effect the snow has on the landscape, lends to the tranquility of the scene with the bright red ancient temples found by Hasui around Tokyo, remains some of his best and most original work.

Clearing Sky after Snow, Kannon Temple Asakusa, Hasui 1926

In 1923, the great Tanto earthquake wrought widespread destruction upon Tokyo, mainly from the raging fires that ripped through predominantly wooden structures, in what some describe as a sea of swirling tornados, walls of fire, brought upon the Japanese by the wrath of God. Hasui’s house, along with his life’s work of sketch pads and paintings, were all consumed by the flames. His main publisher, Watanabe Shōzaburō’s studio, was destroyed as well, losing all of the original carved woodblocks from a number of shin hanga artists.

It is from the Tanto quake of 1923 that the term “pre-earthquake” is derived when describing shin hanga prints. Hasui prints typically fall into three main categories, based upon the actual time they were produced, which is often confusing and/or used to mislead collectors as many are sold without indication of their “Afterlife” edition status.

Printed to this day, these afterlife editions have all been printed using either the original blocks that still remain in decent condition, have been recarved by S. Watanabe from a period directly after the earthquake until his death, or copied even later by Watanabe’s grandson, who now runs the studio. These after-life printings make up the bulk of the Hasui market found on many internet listings today and do offer some collectors an affordable means of collecting/owning a “Hasui” as long as they are not sold on misleading terms.

To be continued...

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