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About Kasamatsu Shiro (1898-1991)
Born in the Asakusa section of Tokyo to a middle class family, Shiro Kasamatsu began his art studies at a young age. In 1911 he became a student of Kaburagi Kiyokata, a master of the bijin-ga (beautiful women) genre. Shiro studied Japanese style painting (Nihonga) but unlike his teacher, he concentrated on landscapes. Kiyokata chose his artist's name "Shiro", which used the character shi from one of Kiyokata's own pseudonyms and was conveniently an alternate spelling of Kasamatsu's given name.

In 1919, Shiro's paintings were shown at several prestigious exhibitions including the government sponsored Bunten, where they caught the eye of Watanabe Shozaburo, a Tokyo publisher, who approached Shiro about designing woodblock prints. No doubt Kiyokata facilitated this introduction as he had done for several other students, including Kawase Hasui and Ito Shinsui. Shiro's first print, "A Windy Day in Early Summer," was published in that same year. He designed several landscape prints over the next few years, but the wood blocks for these were lost in the 1923 Kanto earthquake and consequently they are rarely seen today.

Shiro resumed his work with Watanabe in the 1930's primarily designing landscapes, but also including bijin-ga, interiors, and Noh masks (one of his particular interests). By 1939 Shiro's relationship with Watanabe was nearing a close, probably because Watanabe would not give him the creative control that he desired. Shiro was intrigued by the independence of sosaku hanga printmakers who carved and printed their own designs, and after World War II, he and Watanabe parted ways. However, it was a decade before Shiro aquired the skills to produce his own prints. In the meantime, he established collaboration with Unsodo, a publisher in Kyoto, designing landscape and animal prints. Many of the prints published by Unsodo are quite striking and compare favorably with the Watanabe-published prints.

By the late 1950's, Shiro has begun carving and printing his own designs in limited, numbered editions. Although his self-made prints lack the refined carving of his shin hanga designs, they have a simplicity and expressiveness that is appealing. Shiro continued to create prints for several decades, but never promoted them through exhibitions or gallery affiliations. As a result, his self-carved prints were more a labor of love than a commercial success.

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