“beauty of harmony” at the virginia museum of fine arts

After seeing the Edward Hopper exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, VA on my way to Charleston, SC (on journey: an encounter with edward hopper on the way to charleston), I enjoyed an exhibit called Beauty of Harmony: Japanese Landscape Prints by Kawase Hasui. The exhibit of 13 woodblock prints displayed historical and religious landmarks in cities such as Tokyo, Kanazawa, Kyoto, and Nara, as well as countryside scenes.

Kawase Hasui (1883-1957) made a series of expeditions across Japan during his lifetime, sketching landscapes, cityscapes, and  the nation’s historical and religious landmarks to prepare for his prints.

As I looked at these prints, I realized I had visited many of these places when I went to Kyoto in 2011, and when I was teaching English outside of Tokyo in 2017. Where I have pictures of the places from these prints, I have included them along with the print.

Kinkakuji Temple was first built as a villa in the late 14th century, but later was reconstructed as a Zen Buddhist temple in 1420. This print, created in 1922, captures the scene before a young monk burned down the three-story pavilion in 1950.


iKinkakuji Temple in Snow, from the Series Views of Japanese Scenery, 1922 by Kawase Hasui

Kiiyomizu Temple, literally, “the temple of clear spring,” was built in the 8th century atop a small mountain on the eastern side of Kyoto, offering a bird’s-eye view of the city. Here, Hasui depicts a temple hall leading to a vast veranda, where a lonely woman holding an umbrella gazes beyond the foliage-covered hills.


Rain at Kiyomizu Temple, from the series Souvenirs of Travel II, 1921 by Kawase Hasui

This print illustrates a shaded empty lane, where a lone woman in a kimono walks away from the viewer, recalling the former glory of the area as a home for powerful feudal clans.


Shimobonda Town, Kanazawa, from the series Souvenirs of Travel II, 1921

Asano River is one of the largest rivers in Kanazawa.  The first bridge over the river was built in 1594.  This print illustrates a picturesque view of a single man walking across a bridge at sunset, while a flock of geese frolics in the water below. Two years after Hasui produced this print, a disastrous flood washed away the bridge.


Asano River in Kanazawa, from the series Souvenirs of Travel 1, 1920 by Kawase Hasui

Lake Ashinoko, which translates as “lake of reeds,” was formed about 3,000 years ago following a volcanic eruption at nearby Mount Hakone. It is one of Japan’s largest and most scenic lakes, surrounded by hot springs, temples, shrines, and villas. Lake Ashinoko offers the best views of Mount Fuji when the weather permits. In this print, Hasui illustrates a snow-capped Mount Fuji soaring between the hills, with cedar trees and a glimmering sky reflecting in the water while a fisherman sails across the lake.

The day was very overcast when I was there, so I sadly had no views of Mt. Fuji, although I was able to see it on another trip.


Lake Ashinoko in Hakone, 1935, by Kawase Hasui


Lake Ashinoko, Hakone, 2017


Kikyo Gate, from the series Twenty Views of Tokyo, 1929, by Kawase Hasui

Otemon Gate, the main entrance of the East Garden of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, opened to the public in 1968. Located at the city’s center, the East Garden occupies 52 acres and features gardens, a pond and a castle.  In this spring scene, Hasui illustrates the outside of Otemon Gate, showing the willow trees lining the sidewalk.


A Spring Evening at Otemon Gate, 1952, by Kawase Hasui


Otemon Gate, Imperial Palace, Tokyo 2017

The Meiji Shrine was built in 1921 in memory of Emperor Meiji (1852-1912) and Empress Shoken (1849-1914).  Encompassing 170 acres, the shrine is known for its combination of forests and an iris garden. Here, Hasui depicts purple and white irises in the foreground and visitors strolling around the garden.


Iris Garden at Meiji Shrine, 1951 by Kawase Hasui


Iris garden (not blooming) at Meiji Shrine

In this print, Hasui illustrates the corner of Asakusa Temple, on the eastern side of Tokyo. We see a huge stone lantern, and women in kimonos gathering inside on a rainy morning. The intricate details, from vibrant umbrellas to blooming flowers and yellow trees, reveal the artist’s expertise in depicting seasonal variations.


Rainy Morning in Asakusa, 1930 by Kawaase Hasui


Clear Sky After Snow, Asakusa Kannon Temple, from the series Twenty Views of Tokyo, 1926


Asakusa Temple, Tokyo, 2017

Kasuga Shrine is a Shinto site built in the capital of Nara in the 8th century.  According to Japanese mythology, a god of thunder traveled on a white deer to Nara, followed by several treasured gods now enshrined here. After 1,200 years, the building has remained the same, with its vermilion columns, white walls, dark cypress-bark roofs, and surrounding green trees. Wandering deer, who inhabit the shrine and the nearby mountains, are believed to be sacred messengers of Shinto gods (kami).


Kasuga Shrine in Nara, from the series Souvenirs of Travel II, 1921 by Kawase Hasui


Rain in Nara (Tower of Kofukuji Temple), 1951 by Kawase Hasui


Tower of Kofukuji Temple, Nara, 2017

I saw a couple of other random pieces of art, then headed to my daughter’s house so we could leave for Charleston early the next morning.


Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, 2019

(All information came from plaques at the exhibit.)

*Steps: 5,740, or 2.43 miles*

*Sunday, November 10, 2019*