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Woodblock Prints of Kawase Hausuri

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Several weeks ago, the sun poked through the clouds and broke the winter gloom. My husband and I had to get out of the house, so we went to the Portland Japanese Garden.

A picturesque site nestled in the heart of Washington Park, the Japanese Garden is a place for contemplation. As we strolled, the earthy scent of the moss-covered grounds wafted toward us. We listened to the whoosh of the wind in the trees and the gurgling of little waterfalls, and we absorbed the stillness of the sand and stone garden. I didn’t expect to see art, but we did. The garden had an exhibit comparing two styles of woodblock prints, ukiyo-e, a traditional style popular during the Edo and first half of the Meiji periods, and the newer shin hanga, which evolved in the twentieth century. 

I particularly loved the artwork of Kawase Hausuri, who created woodblock prints in the shin hanga style. His pieces capture Japan as it transitioned from ancient traditions to an industrialized, western influenced way of life. Melancholy emanates from many of his prints, especially those depicting street scenes at night. In these, thatched roof huts are lit from within by modern, electric light. Many scenes are void of people,  reminding me of Edward Hopper’s Sunday Morning. In one, a lone figure walks through puddles on a rainy cobble-stone street. The puddles glitter with reflections from the lit huts, indicating the invisible lives within, inaccessible to both the viewer and the walker. Lonely and sad, yet beautiful. I left inspired to learn more about Japanese art and attend the garden’s next exhibit—The Art of Netsuke Carvings.

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Woodblock Prints of Kawase Hausuri