Meiji Bijutsu

Chawan in the Ogata Kenzan Style

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Directory: Archives: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Pre 1950: Item # 1187270
Meiji Bijutsu
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Kita-aoyama 3-14-1
Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan

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This splendid chawan (tea bowl) is part of a series of mostly antique and vintage items that we recovered from the storehouse of a retired construction contractor. His house is located in the southern part of Kyoto, where buildings from the Edo and Meiji periods still stand. His son not being interested in inheriting his father's collection, we were asked to take them out, and we are now able to present them to you.

The bowl is made in the style of Ogata Kenzan (1663-1743), a genius ceramic artist of the Edo period. Kenzan influenced the world of pottery of that time time and branded a style of ceramic that is still in the making today. Kenzan’s style, which departed from Kyoto sober tea ceremony ware tradition, was colorful and in my humble opinion, very avant-garde in shapes and designs and influenced artists in Japan and the rest of the world, including renowned British potter Bernard Leach (1887 – 1979).

Because of the widespread popularity of Kenzan ware from the early productions, there are many fakes and copies (utsushi), and also because some potteries were only made with Kenzan’s supervision, it is hard to determine the authenticity of Kenzan signed pottery. The making of utsushi is a common practice in Japan, when it is frowned upon in the West, and Kenzan’s copies of classic Chinese and Vietnamese potteries in his early years have themselves become classics. Master potters often copy the works of legendary artists as exercises of style (much like Matisse copying Cézanne).

This bowl is very well made and is a good example of the elegance of Kenzan's work. However, it is difficult to give it an age. The box it comes with features a poem which bears the seal of Kobori Shochu (1786-1868) (see picture 12), an 8th generation tea master from a lineage that goes back to legendary tea master Kobori Masakazu (Enshu)(1579-1647).

Please let us know if you have some questions.

The chawan is in great condition. There is a fine running hairline visible on picture 9, but it does not damage the integrity of the vessel. The bowl bears a Kenzan seal. It will be shipped in a wooden box whose lid is damaged on the front side (see picture 12, lower side).
Dimensions: 12.6 x 7.3 cm (5 x 2.9 in); weight 317 g (11.1 oz)

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