Welcome to our tribute to the remarkable Japanese artist, Shiro Kasamatsu.
Kasamatsu, a luminary of 20th-century Japanese art, left an indelible mark on the world of mokuhanga (木版画)/ printmaking, capturing the essence of Japan’s landscapes, cityscapes, and daily life through his intricate woodblock prints.
Shiro Kasamatsu was born in 1898 in Tokyo, a city that would become a prominent subject in his art. Early in his artistic career, he studied under Kaburagi Kiyokata, a renowned Nihonga painter, which instilled in him a deep appreciation for traditional Japanese art. This early influence is evident in his work’s meticulous attention to detail and traditional subject matter. However, Kasamatsu also embraced modern artistic trends, seamlessly combining them with traditional ukiyo-e techniques.
Kasamatsu’s artistic journey found expression in two prominent movements within Japanese printmaking: Shin Hanga and Sosaku Hanga. In the Shin Hanga, or “New Print,” movement, artists like Kasamatsu worked closely with publishers and traditional woodblock carvers and printers to produce high-quality prints that retained traditional aesthetics while incorporating contemporary themes. Kasamatsu’s Shin Hanga works, characterized by their vivid colors and evocative compositions, garnered widespread acclaim.
Conversely, Kasamatsu also ventured into the Sosaku Hanga, or “Creative Print,” movement, which emphasized the artist’s autonomy in the entire printmaking process, from design to carving and printing. In this sphere, he displayed his versatility and innovation by personally engaging in the technical aspects of printmaking. This duality in his approach, or evolution in his artistic vision, showcased Kasamatsu’s adaptability and versatility as an artist.
Throughout his prolific career, Kasamatsu collaborated with various publishers, including Watanabe Shozaburo, Doi Sadaichi, and Unsodo, among others. These collaborations not only expanded his reach but also allowed him to experiment with different techniques and styles. The synergy between Kasamatsu and these publishers produced some of the most iconic and sought-after woodblock prints in the Shin Hanga tradition.
Shiro Kasamatsu’s artistic legacy extends beyond his own work. His influence on subsequent generations of artists, particularly those exploring woodblock printmaking, cannot be overstated. His ability to harmonize tradition and modernity served as a beacon for artists seeking to redefine Japanese printmaking, making him a prominent figure in the continued evolution of this revered art form.