Kawase Hasui, 1883-1957
bijin-ga of a maiko on yellow ground embellished with fine, light mica; signed Hasui with artist's seal Kawase, the abbreviated title Haru at lower left, and with publisher's seal lower right, Ginza Watanabe mokuhan gaho kosaku (Watanabe woodblock print shop design, Ginza [ca. 1934-41])
oban tate-e 15 3/8 by 10 3/8 in., 39.1 by 26.4 cm
This design, the only bijin-ga produced by Hasui, was originally published in the spring of 1925, with the date above the signature at the upper right and the full title Departing Spring (Yuku Haru) indicated at the lower left. This impression is lacking that date, the title has been simplified to Spring (Haru), and bears a version of the Watanabe seal which was generally used from the mid-1930s to the early 1940s. Extant early impressions of the design are somewhat scarce (particularly with the mica background in good condition). Perhaps it was not a fast-seller because Hasui was so closely associated with landscape prints. Or it may also have failed to find its market at the time because by the mid-1920s images of women in woodblock prints were frequently striking depictions of moga (shortened from modan garu, 'modern girl'), and this sweet, innocent girl may have seemed rather outdated. But in the following decade Japan became increasingly conservative and there was a backlash against modernity. In addition, in an environment of economic austerity as the nation mobilized for war, it would have been sensible for Watanabe to make use of a previously unappreciated design which would have been relatively simple to produce because the blocks were already carved. Evidently Watanabe re-issued this print (with the earlier date removed) to take advantage of its chaste subject which would have drawn approval of the authorities as an appropriate and commendable representation of a suitably traditional Japanese beauty.
Narazaki Muneshige, Kawase Hasui mokuhanga shu, 1979, p. 130, no. 411
Kendall H. Brown, Kawase Hasui: The Complete Woodblock Prints, 2003, p. 354, no. 145
Amy Reigle Newland and Hamanaka Shinji, The Female Image: 20th Century Prints of Japanese Beauties, 2000, p. 115, no. 150
Andreas Marks, Seven Masters: 20th century Japanese Woodblock Prints from the Wells Collection, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2015, p. 165, no. 122
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