Raku tea bowls and other tea-ware implements are shaped by hand, using clay that was prepared often several generations before by a previous Kichizaemon (master potter in the Raku tradition). The kilns are all wood-fired and the glazes and methods used are family secrets, handed down over generations, for the last 450 years.
Based on a classical tale adapted into a popular Kabuki performance in late Edo, the story of the Fuji Musume or “Wisteria Maiden” is an often employed motif in Japanese art. In the story, the Wisteria Maiden is depicted in a painting holding a wisteria branch, until one day she becomes smitten with a young man passing by and steps out of the painting in an effort to capture his attention.
Sumi on paper. A fine ensō drawn by Reigen Eto, one of the most prominent disciples of Hakuin. It is said that Reigen was known for his delicate brush strokes and works that displayed a profound empathy with nature. [Sold]
Master of a very difficult technique from the Chinese Tang Dynasty (618 – 907) known in Japanese as Neriage, the potter who created this elegant vase uses extreme precision to combine sheets of differing types of clay, culminating in a unique visual effect. While many of his pieces are ringed with swirls of colors, this one is more modern and subdued. With quite a lot of character, this lovely vase will draw attention without being overpowering.
A book containing secret techniques used by the kiln has been handed down to each successive generation since the age of Dō’nyū (1599 – 1656). Unlike the main Raku line—that to a certain extent allows each generation of potter to follow their own aesthetic sense—Tamamizu potters have stayed true to the original forms set out by Chōjirō, Dō’nyū, and Kōetsu. The line of Tamamizu potters continued up to early Meiji with the death of Tamamizu 14. However, a recent attempt was made to revive the kiln by a descendent (later dubbed Tamamizu 15) who spent his life collecting Tamamizu-ware from earlier potters, researching the techniques used by studying old manuscripts, and training with main-line Raku potters. Despite these efforts, there remain many historical gaps in our collective knowledge of the kiln and of the individual potters themselves.
Yuzo Kondo is one of the more recognized names in the world of modern Japanese pottery of the 20th century. Though known mainly for his sometsuke creations (blue and white porcelain), he did not settle on this style until well into his potting career that lasted over seven decades. The piece shown here is from an earlier period and has been expertly repaired with gold joinery. One of the most striking kintsugi pieces I have personally come across, this exquisite decorative jar has the added distinction of being made by one of Japan’s top craftsmen.
A collaboration piece between the famed poet/ nun of the late Edo period Rengetsu and her younger protege Tessai, this scroll depicts a frightened cricket making his way to the top of a stalk of grass on a windy day. Set in the fall season, the viewer can imagine a message of frailty, loneliness, and possibly the feeling of trepidation that accompanies the turning of the seasons towards the colder months. Melancholy though it may seem at first glance, there is the deeper, more hopeful message of renewal that is sure to arrive with the spring thaws.
Wakao Kei continues to surprise and captivate with this turquoise blue porcelain vase from his recent offerings. Using deep, rich colors not often seen in this kind of celadon, the form of the vase is reminiscent of the natural contours of a Calla Lily.[Sold]
From a well-known series entitled “Chōtō” (Listening to the Waves) this large contoured vase features a sandy glaze that the sculptor claims is an expression of the features of the landscape where he grew up. The Chōtō series that launched his career proved to be wildly popular and today a number of pieces are held by museums around the world including: Brooklyn Museum; Hyôgo Museum of Ceramics; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Musée National de Céramique, Sèvres; Museum of Art & Design; New Orleans Museum of Art; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Sano Museum of Art, Mishima City; and Yale University Art Gallery.
Here we have a very unique ceremonial tea implement made by one of the most important figures from Japanese tea culture in the past century. While most tea scoops (chashaku) are made of bamboo, this piece is fashioned from the branch of a plum tree and retains part of the bark on the handle. Fashioned by the 14th Tea Master of Urasenke, this is a very rare and interesting implement. [Sold]
Japanese Nihonga painting on paper—this piece by well-known Meiji/ Taisho artist Tomita Keisen depicts an idealized mountain scene in Keisen’s distinctive style. Close inspection reveals a mountain temple nestled along the cliffs overlooking twin waterfalls. Meanwhile, master and student traverse a mountain path below on their way back to the hermitage.
The craftsman, Wakashima Takao (b. 1935) was born in the north of Japan in the picturesque town of Wajima. The lacquer technique particular to this region (Wajima-nuri) is rather unique in its use of an undercoating incorporating special compounds that make it exceptionally durable over time.
Conceived by 20th century master ceramicist Kawai Kanjiro—here an abstract depiction of flowers is used to adorn an exquisite “henko” shaped vase. The glaze is known as “tetsu-yu” for its use of iron compounds to achieve this distinctive look. Though many pieces by Kanjiro remain today, this exact combination of style, shape, and glazing is uncommon, making this a must-have work for serious collectors.
A masterpiece by one of the premier Literati painters from the Edo period. Born into a wealthy samurai family, At a young age, Bunchō was given a stipend that enabled him to study painting and pursue a career in the arts. From the age of 10 he studied Kano painting under Kato Bunrei, then later when he was 19, took up an apprenticeship in the Nanpin School of painting under Gentai Watanabe. An artist with an eclectic taste, he went on to master many styles of Chinese, Japanese, and Western painting.
A truly unique work of Shino pottery developed among the company of some of Japan’s most respected and influential potters of the last century. Defying conventions of form and genre, this exceptional mizusashi looks like it could have emerged from the ground fully formed, the result of geological processes lasting millennia. The creator of this fine work is none other than Tsuboshima Dohei, a true master of the ceramic arts.
One of the most important Japanese potters of the 20th century, skilled in an impressive number of styles, today his pieces can be found in museum collections around the world. The kintsugi used here was recently reapplied by a top artisan and uses copper, which, with age should display a blueish color to complement the cobalt blue of the dish.[Sold]
This Meiji period vase is made of fine white porcelain fashioned after classic Chinese pieces from the Song Dynasty. The potter, first generation Miura Chikusen, is the same generation as many of the better known Imperial Court artists (Kozan, Siefu, Tozan, etc…) and just as accomplished in terms of mastery of technique, level of artistic expression, and volume of pieces produced.
This masterful rendition of an idilic landscape done in the Nanga style of Chinese painting is spread across three canvases titled 1) “Arashiyama” (A district nestled at the foot of Kyoto’s eastern mountain range), 2) “Kyomizu-dera” (One of Kyoto’s most iconic temples located in the western foothills), and 3) “Tatsuta” (An area west of Kyoto on the edge of Lake Biwa, known for its expansive fields of lotus flowers). These three actual places are used as the inspiration for this fanciful interpretation that is expressed through a classical Chinese painting style.
This Meiji period incense burner is made of fine white porcelain with a silver globe decorated with autumn foliage. As with much of Japanese pottery from this era, it is fashioned after classic Chinese pieces from the Song Dynasty. The potter, first generation Miura Chikusen, is of the same generation as many of the better known Imperial Court artists (Kozan, Siefu, Tozan, etc…) and just as accomplished in terms of mastery of technique, level of artistic expression, and volume of pieces produced.
A beautiful example of a Hakeme style bowl, this one quite rare as it was made around 200 years ago by the son of the founder of the Dohachi line of potters. Traditionally decorated using a brush made from rice straw, a white slip is applied to the darker clay body with a wide sweeping stroke to achieve the effect seen here. Over time this style became a favorite among Japanese tea masters for its natural and unpretentious feeling.
Raku-ware carries with it a very naturalistic aura; with its implements made of raw clay, its use of fire water and air to shape and harden these implements, and with its myriad processes that produce smooth glossy surfaces—like those often found in nature. In fact, if you look more deeply into Raku, you find that many of the shapes and motifs are also inspired by nature. For example, this masterfully crafted mizusashi (fresh water pot) takes its inspiration from the shape of one of the most important food crops in ancient Japan, the humble sato-imo (sweet potato). Though fashioned over 200 years ago, this piece still displays a beautiful patina and is one of the more striking pieces you will find by this artist—the 9th generation Raku potter known as Ryônyû (1756 – 1834). [Sold]
A native of Nagoya, a bustling Japanese center for shipping and trade in Late Edo, Baiitsu was heavily influenced by works of Chinese art, especially the naturalistic landscapes that made their way into Japan through this port city. Over time he came to paint almost exclusively birds in various landscapes and gained a reputation for his brushwork, exceptional attention to detail, and as he termed it the “spirit” he imbued in a completed work. [Sold]
Before styles such as Raku, Hagi, Karatsu, etc came into fashion for use in the tearoom in early Edo, it was commonplace in cultured society to use tea-ware imported from China. In fact, some pottery styles uniquely Japanese (such as Shino) are thought to have been born out of unsuccessful attempts to emulate these extremely high-quality and refined ceramics. The number of such pieces imported was so great that today it is not uncommon for Chinese collectors to visit Japan in search of authentic porcelains from the Song Dynasty and later.[Sold]
In the world of Japanese ceramics, Tamamizu-ware has an almost mythical standing. A branch of the main Raku line, at one time the two kilns held equal prominence, both being endorsed by the major tea schools of Kyoto and both being favored by the Imperial household. The first in the line was an illegitimate son of Kichizaemon Ichinyu (Yahē) who studied under his father and then left to open his own kiln in the village of Tamamizu (known today as Ide-cho). Though he is the first potter of the Tamamizu branch, he is usually referred to as Tamamizu VI (denoting his descendance from the Raku line). After establishing the kiln, Yahē took the artist’s name “Ichigen” and proceeded to fashion extremely high-quality tea bowls and other implements in the style of the earliest Raku potters.
Seated in meditation with open and compassionate heart, this bodhisattva is on a spiritual journey, postponing his own salvation in order to remain on earth to help others achieve enlightenment. In contrast to some images of the Japanese Bodhisattva (Bosatsu), often depicted as austere and inward looking, here, Kimura depicts the Bodhisattva as playful, carefree, and decidedly ornate. The inverted image of white contrast dye on black silk also makes for a striking composition.
Japanese sumi on paper—this piece by well-known Meiji/ Taisho artist Tomita Keisen depicts a lone banana tree. Deceptively simple in style, each brush stroke made with sweeping yet calculated motions to evoke nostalgia for sultry summer days and tropical climes.
A small cottage perched on the edge of a tranquil lake, fishermen heading out in the morning chill to secure their daily catch. This tranquil scene from the Japanese countryside was captured over 300 years ago by painter, poet, and Buddhist monk Hyakusetsu Genyō (poet) and Kuge Yaou (painter) a monk of the Tenryu-ji sect.
Yuzo Kondo is one of the more recognized names in the world of modern Japanese pottery of the 20th century. Though known mainly for his sometsuke creations (blue and white porcelain), he did not settle on this style until well into his potting career that lasted over seven decades. The piece shown here then would be from an earlier period and is evidence of his competency with varied styles and glazes—not just the one he is most well-known for.
This extraordinary vase is a truly Japanese expression of a classical Chinese form. Fashioned after cylindrical Song Dynasty pieces that are thought to have been introduced in the 9th century from Syria, the handles are of Chinese origin and represent the mythical “Chiwen” (Shichihoko in Japanese). This deity, typically depicted with the body of a carp, the head of a tiger, and the scales of a dragon, is believed to be a bringer of rain and a protector against fire. The outer ring of the foot is unglazed showing the fine porcelain clay this piece is constructed from and the glazed center bears the seal of the Imperial Court Artist who fashioned this piece.
Sumi and color on paper. This 18th century folding screen or byobu features a stylistically rendered tiger prowling a bamboo forest. Still on its original mount, the piece is framed by an intricately brocaded border of dyed silk and an original black lacquered wooden frame with cloth backing. In fine condition and possessing a remarkable aji (graceful beauty bestowed by age).
This rare and interesting ceramic work was done by one of the most renowned and loved waka poets of the 19th century, Ōtagaki Rengetsu (1791-1875). In fact, if you look closely at the attached images, you will see her finger imprints clearly preserved in the molded clay.[Sold]
This lovely Ido-gata shaped chawan has very nice asymmetrical balance highlighted by extensive and skillfully applied kintsugi gold repairs. The inside bottom of the bowl is covered in a green glaze resembling a carpet of fine moss which stands out nicely agains the backdrop of the ashen-colored crackled glazing of the walls of the bowl. [Sold]
Sumi, color, gofun, and gold flecks on paper. In addition, this piece contains a unique woodblock print technique that utilizes gofun, a ground oyster shell treatment. As a result, the forest sprites featured in this piece are hidden to the viewer until viewed from the right perspective.The inscribed poem is done in the waka style and reads, “A twig broken is a sin, here at Togano’o… so permit me, some fallen leaves, O guardians of these autumn hills.” [Sold]
Signed by the 13th Iemoto (tea master) of Omotesenke, Sokuchusai (1901-1979) this exceptional tea bowl bears the poetic name Asahi or “Morning Sun.” Brilliant ochre and ash hues highlight molten swirls and dynamic features. This bowl has exceptional keshiki, or “ceramic landscape.“ [Sold]
Sumi on paper. This hanging scroll depicting a waterfall was featured in a recent exhibition at the Nomura Art Museum (Kyoto) and is displayed on pp. 43 of the associated art book: Ōtagaki Rengetsu: Poetry and Artworks from a Rustic Hut. The poem reads: Summer flows into the world, unfurling everywhere… I am alone and cool, beside the mountain’s, downstream waters. [Sold]
Sumi, color, and and gofun on gilded paper. This piece done in the early Edo period features two rabbits frolicking in a sunny floral pasture. The flowers in this composition are particularly striking and emanate a soft radiance due to the use of a gofun treatment in which a white pigment made from high quality oyster shells is applied to the canvas. A classic naturalistic landscape, the rabbits in the foreground are rendered in such a way as to suggest movement while the hills floating in the background add extra dimensions to the composition. [Sold]
Sumi on paper. This impressive Zen painting by Gentō Sokuchū features the Chinese character michi (path) in masterfully rendered calligraphic strokes. As the 11th abbot of Entsū-ji and later the 50th abbot of Eihei-ji, Sokuchū made it his life’s work to bring the Sōtō sect of Buddhism back in line with the teachings of its founder Dōgen Zenji. [Sold]
Etched calligraphy on ceramic. A classic and well-executed example of a Rengetsu cup set. Each cup inscribed with felicitations and wishes of long life. The middle cup is inscribed with the poem, “In the future, happiness, and long life… two sprouting leaves, to grow a thousand years.” [Sold]
Glazed stoneware. This tea bowl features intricate design work rarely seen in the bulk of Kanjirō’s pieces—likely indicating his early period. The medallion-like floral patterns on the outside and lining the inside of the bowl are formed using a slip inlay technique characteristic of Mishima yaki. The Mishima technique, borrowed from 10th-14th century Korean celadon pottery, allows for the extremely fine and intricate design work displayed here. This tea bowl comes with a signed and sealed wooden tomobako. [Sold]
Sumi and color on paper. This piece by well-known Taisho period artist Tomita Keisen depicts foresters riding log rafts down the Uji-gawa. Keisen was trained in classical painting and was well-versed in the Kano and Shijo school traditions. Despite his classical roots, he strove to develop his own unique style of painting. [Sold]
Paint on canvas. This signed and sealed painting by Ono Bakufu depicts two Japanese Koi floating in a tranquil pond. Bakufu is best known for his print series of colorful fish entitled Dai-nippon Gyorui Gashu or “Fish of Japan.” Published in 1937, the series includes 72 detailed prints, many of which were adapted from sketches or paintings like the one featured here. Expertly framed in a handmade blue/black lacquer frame, this piece is quite attractive. [Sold]
Lithography with hand coloring on paper. This piece titled ‘Eager’ is by renowned Abstract Expressionist, Toko Shinoda (b. 1913). One of the most important Japanese artist of her time, Shinoda’s works are featured in collections worldwide including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, the National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo, and the British Museum to name a few. [Sold]
Sumi and color on paper. This hanging scroll by Fukuda Kodojin is a fine example of the Japanese nan-ga style of painting. Compared with other works by Kodojin, this piece displays a distinctively vibrant and richly toned color palate. Kodojin, or “Old Taoist” is remembered today—apart from his great skill as a poet and painter—as being one of the last in a line of great literati artists in Japan. While he lived a quiet and reflective life of devoted study, his poetry and paintings tended to be infused with dramatic imagery and unconventional stylistic forms. [Sold]
Sumi painting and calligraphy on ceramic. This chawan is light in the hand and contrasts beautifully with a dark rich bowl of matcha. While the poems of many of Rengetsu’s ceramic pieces are etched in clay, this piece is unique in that the calligraphy is applied with sumi and brush. The poem is done in the waka style and reads, “Echoing through the world, tidings on the wind… I hear them, whispering in the lone pine, standing beside my hut.” [Sold]
Woodcut on Japanese paper. This piece depicting “Goddesses” encapsulates the vitality and raw energy often seen in Munakata’s unique style of print-making. For Munakata, the art of creation did not come from within but emerged out of the wood to reveal nature’s intrinsic force and beauty. His influences derive from both east and west and include Vincent van Gough, Buddhist religious imagery, Heian period poetry, and Japanese folk art to name a few. As seen in this print, Munakata often incorporated poetry and calligraphy into his works. [Sold]
Sumi and color on paper. This piece depicts the single Chinese character hito (person or individual) in bold and distinctive calligraphic strokes. Signed and sealed by Suda Kokuta, it is also dated in black pencil with the year 1988. [Sold]
Raku glazed ceramic. This well-shaped and firmly grounded tea bowl is the work of Sanyū—Kichizaemon VI of the Raku line of potters. Highly regarded in the tea world, Raku bowls are considered the pinnacle of craftsmanship and enjoy a long and respected history beginning with the tea master Sen Rikyu in the 16th century. This bowl was certified as authentic by Kichizaemon X Tannyu sometime between 1826 and 1845 and then later received a certification of quality by Tantansai, the 14th generation Iemoto of Urasenke sometime between 1922 and 1964. It bears the poetic name ‘Winter Pine.’ [Sold]
Mezzotint on paper. This image was rendered by Saito Kaoru (1931~), an artist known for his beautiful and sensitive treatments of traditional Japanese femininity. Considered a master of the mezzotint technique, Saito chose this medium over the the more traditional woodblock print technique in order to achieve a finer level of gradation and detail in his works. The end result being traditional Japanese motifs done in such a way as to convey a photorealistic impression. [Sold]
Sumi on silk. A fine example of painting from the Obaku sect of Zen which was brought to Japan in the 17th century from China. This naturalistic theme by Taijou Shokan is a painting of crabs foraging on a grassy strand. The delicate lines and soft fading of the silk give this piece a quiet and subdued aesthetic. [Sold]