Bonsai Inspiration: The Woodblock Prints of Kawase Hasui – Ideas on the Artwork of Bonsai: Artistree Bonsai Weblog

Kawase Hasui’s artwork impressed Steve Jobs and lots of others. What can bonsai artists study from his work?

In her memoir, Lisa Brennan-Jobs wrote about visiting her father 3 months earlier than he died, “I tiptoed into my father’s room, cautious to step over the creaky floorboard on the entrance…there have been framed prints by Hasui of twilight and sundown at temples. A patch of pink gentle stretched out on a wall beside him.” (1)

We every have inside us a reservoir of experiences, accompanied by emotions and pictures, that function inspiration for our artistic efforts. It appears apparent that views of nature present that for bonsai artists, whether or not they had been witnessed firsthand or seen in {a photograph}, portray or different image. For me, the character scenes depicted in Japanese woodblock prints are one such supply of inspiration.

Once I view prints by Hasui, a outstanding artist of the Shin-hanga motion, I think about touring as he did by way of the Japan of that earlier period looking for “anonymous locations”. I really feel that I can perceive why Hasui stopped to sketch a selected scene after which, with the expertise nonetheless contemporary in his thoughts, spend his night including colour to it.

Usually, as I work on bonsai, I’ve Hasui’s photographs in thoughts, but there’s extra to it than that. I’m not attempting to breed his work, as a substitute I’m attempting to grasp how he so efficiently communicates his emotions a few scene to the viewer.

Hasui’s photographs additionally trace at one thing past the body. The prints themselves are only one level originally – of a journey, of a forest, of a season, of a sundown, of an period, of an atypical day in somebody’s life, of a sense.

As Norio Kobayashi, one of many founders of the Kokufu-ten Exhibition, as soon as stated, a bonsai differs from another potted plant as a result of a bonsai is supposed to recommend a bigger scene or panorama (3). I imagine that finding out Hasui’s artwork can assist me to create bonsai that do exactly that.

Shin Hanga

The Shin-hanga (“new prints”) motion was began by writer Watanabe Shōzaburō (1885-1962) through the Taisho and Showa intervals in Japan, with the vast majority of prints produced from about 1915 to 1942. Shin-hanga has been described as revitalizing the custom of woodblock printing (Ukiyo-e) from the Edo and Meiji intervals (seventeenth -Nineteenth century) when work by such well-known artists as Hiroshige and Hokusai was produced.

Shin-hanga and Ukiyo-e prints had been each created by way of using a collaborative system, with the artist, carver, printer and writer all having necessary roles within the manufacturing of the ultimate picture. Nevertheless, Shin Hanga prints had been produced with the extra superior printing strategies that had been developed by that point. Consequently, Shin-hanga prints had been created with many extra layers of ink to be able to create refined gradations and denser colour.

As well as, many Shin-hanga artists and Hasui specifically integrated Western concepts that emphasised the consequences of sunshine and the expression of particular person moods. A few of these concepts had been borrowed from Impressionism, which had itself been influenced by Japanese artwork within the late Nineteenth century through the interval of so-called Japonisme within the Western artwork world.

Kawase Hasui (川瀬 巴水)

Hayashi Nozomo, in his e book Nostalgia. Imagery in Kawase Hasui’s Woodblock Prints, (Kawade Shobo Shinsha, 2020), described Hasui as a “painter of woodblock prints,” including, “…[He] can’t be referred to as ‘a woodblock print artist’. Fairly Hasui was a painter. Up to now, he would have been referred to as an eshi, referring to the painter who made the portray or drawing from which a woodblock print was made.” (4)

Hasui a lot most popular to color ‘anonymous locations”- bringing to thoughts the haiku of Matsuo Basho

Hasui depicted identified landmarks and well-known scenes when he was on task from his writer, however he a lot most popular to color “anonymous locations,” scenes that he found on his travels (this brings to thoughts the haiku of Matsuo Basho). The scholar Narasaki Muneshige wrote that Hasui stated,  “Most frequently I sketch in pencil, and I don’t draw locations that don’t make a lot of an impression.” Relating to colour he stated, ‘’I’m able to observe sensitively as a result of I’ve studied Western artwork.” (5)

Hasui used his understanding of sunshine, shadow and different atmospheric results to speak his emotions a few scene to the viewer, to narrate the temper or tone of a spot. Hasui expertly depicted snow, rain, and the sunshine from a sundown or moonrise.

Within the woodblock print titled, “The Moon at Kasaoka,” Hasui deliberately omitted the total moon that was a part of the unique scene (and that he had included in his preliminary sketch). Instead of the moon, he depicts the distant sky regularly changing into lighter, suggesting that the moon would quickly be rising. That is an allusion to classical Japanese literature the place this phenomenon is named “moon white.” (4)

We suppose [that] expertise has the identical particular limits because the issues with which it’s involved…Issues, objects are solely focal factors of a right here and now in an entire that stretches out indefinitely.

John Dewey

John Dewey, in Artwork as Expertise, writes that our “conception of expertise” is influenced by viewing an inventive object (portray, sculpture), that has particular boundaries and edges, when in truth experiences have indefinite boundaries. (6) That is one thing Hasui appears additionally to have grasped.

For instance, Hasui’s photographs not often included greater than two or three individuals who had been often engaged in widespread each day actions and who had been seen solely from a distance. His figures are proven concentrating on some exercise or taking a look at one thing positioned exterior of the picture. This is likely one of the ways in which Hasui invitations viewers to place themselves into the scene, to think about what lies past.

Inspiration for Bonsai – A few of Kawase Hasui’s Prints

Gallery of Kawase Hasui Prints (Click on on a picture to enlarge). Rights: Wikipedia Commons, 2024. They’re briefly mentioned beneath.

Hasui’s picture of timber in moonlight can produce a sense of somber tranquility and peace (“Moon at Magome” 1930).

His depiction of a line of timber on the fringe of a cultivated subject engages one’s eyes to comply with the intersecting strains and angles of trunks and branches, the rhythm, of the timber (“Ichinokura, at Ikegami, Sundown” 1928). This picture of a straight line of timber on the fringe of a tea subject, filtering the sundown, isn’t the standard bonsai forest composition, but is could be very compelling. It may be damaged down into a number of subgroups of timber, every a separate “nonetheless life”.

“Twilight at Ushibori” (1930) depicts a relaxed, pastoral scene of nice magnificence, with a easy line of timber alongside a shore. The world to the fitting of the timber with tiny timber close to the horizon provides to the sensation of house stretching out indefinitely.

“Nikkō Kaidō” (1930) exhibits a pilgrim strolling alongside one of many 5 fundamental roads of previous Japan by way of a dense forest of cryptomeria. The hovering top and thick trunks of the traditional timber contrasts with the determine of the pilgrim.

In “HIkawa Park at Omiya” (1930), Hasui once more exhibits his talent depicting gentle, with the early morning solar illuminating the treetops.

In “The Grounds of the Kanda Myojin Shrine” (1926), Hasui included a canine standing subsequent to 2 timber rather than a human determine. The canine gazes on the metropolis of Tokyo within the distance. The Shrine had burned within the Nice Kanto earthquake of 1923. The powerfully drawn clouds could also be a reference to each nature’s energy and its magnificence.

Some Ultimate Ideas

Each particular person will reply (or not) to Hasui’s artwork in their very own means. I’m impressed by Hasui to create bonsai that higher talk to a viewer my emotions about nature, about some scene I’ve lengthy appreciated or simply imagined. Hasui impressed me to create bonsai that may be, quoting Dewey, the “point of interest of a right here and now in an entire that stretches out indefinitely.”


  1. Brennan-Jobs, Lisa. Small Fry. A Memoir. Grove Press, NY., 2018.
  2. NHK World Japan, “The start of Steve Jobs’ lifelong love of shin-hanga”. July 1, 2021.
  3. Kobayashi, N. Bonsai – Miniature Potted Timber, twelfth ed. Japan Journey Bureau, Tokyo, 1963.
  4. Hayashi Nozomo. Nostalgia. Imagery in Kawase Hasui’s Woodblock Prints, Kawade Shobo Shinsha, 2020.
  5. Narasaki Muneshige. “Kawase Hasui: His life and Prints.” in A Assortment of Woodblock Prints of Kawase Hasui. Mainichi Press, 1979.
  6. Dewey, John. Artwork as Expertise, Perigree Press , NY, NY, 1980.

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