Shiba Benten Pond
Kawase Hasui – Shiba Benten Pond (Hasui Kawase – Shiba Benten ike)
Japanese woodblock print. The first edition of this design was published in 1929. The current print was printed in the Reiwa period (2019 – present).
This print by Kawase Hasui depicts the Shinobazu Pond in Ueno Park, Tokyo, home of the Benten temple. The pond is divided into three separate ponds, with the Lotus pond that is depicted here perhaps being the most remarkable. The print seems to show the pond in the height of summer, as it is at that time that the Lotus pond is fully covered by blossoming Lotus plants. In the middle are two women, seemingly enjoying the beautify of the sight as well.
Somewhere in the 1950s the original woodblocks used to make this print were obtained by publisher Shobisha, who used them again recently to print a new edition, of excellent quality as usual.
This Kawase Hasui print is part of a group of designs he first made around 1930 for the publisher cooperation Sakai-Kawaguchi. There are various accounts as to what happened to the original woodblocks thereafter, but it is clear that they were, at least partially, destroyed and recarved. Recarving happened during Kawase Hasui’s lifetime, but the extent of his involvement is unknown. Along the way, the rights for the design were also transferred to publisher Shobisha, who has republished the designs from the 1950s onward with the newly recarved blocks.
All of the above makes it hard to apply one of the commonly used labels for woodblock prints with a hundred percent certainty. Some consider prints as “original woodblock prints” as long as the original woodblocks were used, even if they were recarved extensively. In the unlikely scenario that is what happened for this group of woodblock prints as well, it would be an original woodblock print with the date of the first edition around 1930. If in stead the original woodblocks were destroyed completely and an entirely new set of blocks was carved, but with the involvement of Kawase Hasui, they would still be considered “original woodblock prints”, but now with the first edition dated to the time of the new carving, probably in the 1950s. This is what seems to be the most likely scenario. In the standard works on Kawase Hasui the designs are not listed separately from the editions of around 1930, so it would be confusing to list them as such however. If in stead the woodblock prints were recarved completely anew but with no involvement of Kawase Hasui himself, then they could be considered “recuts” or “reprints”. This would be very peculiar however since the recarving happened during Kawase Hasui’s lifetime, by the holder of the rights for the design, and by a publisher who is known to have cooperated with Kawase Hasui (as all publishers mentioned are), so a very unlikely scenario.
In the end then, we would regard the prints from this group from after 1950 as original woodblock prints, with a first edition date of either the 1930s or the 1950s. As, given their listings in the standard works on Kawase Hasui, this would be more confusing then helpful, we decided to simply not label them as exact, but in stead describe them as Japanese woodblock prints, while listing the year of the first editions as listed in the standard works.
Image size (excluding margins): 23.8 * 36.5 cm (9.4 * 14.4 in).
The print is in excellent condition.
The pictures shown here are from the print itself.