On Thursday, Feb. 2, the Fairfield University Art Museum held a virtual “Art in Focus” event to discuss “Spring Moon at Ninomiya Beach” by Kawase Hasui. This event was hosted by Michelle DiMarzo of Fairfield’s Art History & Visual Culture Department. DiMarzo’s enthusiasm and interest in this piece was infectious, and she presented many interesting details about the art. “Spring Moon at Ninomiya Beach” was gifted to Fairfield University in 2018 and has been in the Art Department’s possession ever since. This piece is of the Japanese woodblock print production technique, which is a very popular artform in Japanese cultures. Many people would recognize “The Great Wave,” which is the most famous Japanese woodblock art piece. Kawase Hasui, the artist behind “Spring Moon at Ninomiya Beach,” was known as one of the last great woodblock masters. He has created over 600 prints in his lifetime. The majority of his work is of nighttime landscapes that are lit by the moon, and “Spring Moon at Ninomiya Beach” definitely falls into this category.
DiMarzo was sure to point out the calmness and mood of tranquility that encompasses this work. Along with this peaceful feeling, many viewers are drawn to the figure who is depicted strolling along the beach. There is a level of ambiguity surrounding this figure, leading viewers to wonder who it is and what they are doing on the beach. Perhaps they are out for a peaceful nighttime stroll or maybe they are looking for something that they had lost.
The beautiful scenery in this work of art really transports viewers to the scene, and it is easy to imagine the peaceful sound of the waves lapping against the shoreline in the darkness of night. The clouds were particularly interesting, as DiMarzo pointed out that there is a darker level of clouds right at the water’s horizon. This leads viewers to question whether this is a darker cloud or if it is another landmass in the distance. DiMarzo commented on how she wondered if the figure continued their walk along the beach if they would end up on the land on the other side.
The ripples of light on the water’s surface are one of the most alluring aspects of this work. Not only is this a beautiful feature, but the work that goes into carving out wood blocks to create these tiny details is amazing. At first look, this piece may seem simple to the common viewer, but those with background knowledge of woodblock printing are aware of the true work and attention to detail that goes into creating a piece as intricate as this. This “Art in Focus” event discussing “Spring Moon at Ninomiya Beach” by Kawase Hasui was very interesting and engaging, as it pointed out many details and interesting facts about this artwork that may go unnoticed by the common eye.