Hasegawa, Saburô (長谷川三郎) (1906–1957) By Szostak, John
Hasegawa Saburô was a Japanese writer, art historian, and abstract painter. Born in Yamaguchi prefecture, as a youth he trained under the oil painter Koide Narashige (1887–1931). He studied Japanese art history at Tokyo Imperial University while continuing to paint. After graduating in 1929, he moved to Paris for three years, where he studied the work of abstract painters, particularly Mondrian, whose style he found inspirational. Upon his return to Japan he contributed to exhibitions organized by the Nikakai (Society of Progressive Japanese Artists). In 1936 he published Abstract Art (Abusutorakuto âto), one of the first authoritative Japanese-language texts on the subject. The next year he joined with several other artists to create the Free Artist Society (Jiyû Bijutsuka Kyôkai), an influential pre-war avant-garde collective. Paintings such as Locus of a Butterfly (Chô no kiseki, 1937) — which was contributed to the Free Artist Society’s first exhibition — demonstrate Hasegawa’s interest in combining Western-style abstraction with East Asian calligraphy. During a visit to New York in 1951, he gave lectures on Zen and East Asian aesthetics that were attended by Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, and other New York School painters. From 1955 he worked as a lecturer in art history, painting, printmaking, and calligraphy at the California College of Art and Crafts.