Zenko Yasuda Kyo Chawan

Potter: Zenko Yasuda

Approximate size: W5.0″ by H2.8″ or 12.8 by 7.3 cm

Zenko Yasuda, who’s real name was Masahiro Yasuda was born in Kyoto in 1926. Yasuda Zenko studied at the Kyoto Craft & Fabric University where he specialized in the making and building of kilns. Afterwards he studied pottery under the 6th Kiyomizu Rokubei (1901-1980). After going independent he build a kiln called Rokushin No Kama in Kyoto. Zenko Yasuda created unique and distinctive stoneware using complex glazing techniques. He passed in 2011 at the age of 86. A well respected 20th century Japanese potter.

In 1958 he was awarded the Japanese Ceramic Society Prize and since has regularly been included in the Nitten. Later in life he also served at the Nitten Exhibition as a member of the jury. His work was acquired by Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1964 and the Museum of Modern Art in Shiga prefecture boasts no less than 10 works in the collection.

More photos are in the works and will be added in the future

I found it very difficult to write a accurate description for this item and the following attempt is likely to be edited

This chawan boasts fantastic clay in a half cylinder shape (called han tsutsu-gata), wheel-thrown and finished with a unique glaze, likely of his own creation. The clay, color and scraped texture strongly reminded me of Tamba works by Tadashi Nishihata but in combination with the glaze that was next to impossible. The glazing has features of the thick white feldspar Shino glaze but shows the intricacy of celadon with the characteristic crazing. This example however has a very fine reddish crazing, called kannyu (貫入), and at first, while researching this item attempting to pinpoint origin (and if lucky and successful the artist responsible), I was looking in the direction of the celadon works of Shimizu Uichi and his students. Their style of celadon seemed to resemble characteristics seen in this chawan or perhaps the chawan resembled their work-style.

Lastly studying this chawan in hand the following can be said. It has been fired multiple times evidenced by overlapping layers and features in the glaze and has been finished by a hand painted scene showing a landscape type decoration of the archetypal shapes seen in well cared for bonsai, where the leaves are shaped as to resemble clouds floating by, this is done by brush and the colors vary from bronze, silver and gold depending on the lighting and angle at which it is viewed. I’m planning to add better photos of this area in the near future (my first attempts did not turn out so well). The scene is located on the right hand side of the ‘gate’ feature. The tori shape gate is unique and the first time I’ve seen this. Generally distinctive features like this are often considered to denote the ‘front’ of a tea bowl.


The texture and quality of the glaze is absolutely amazing but unfortunately I don’t know where to begin accurately describing it in words. By viewing the following photographs in higher resolution (1), (2), I hope to give you an impression of what the texture is like.

In a nutshell, Bunten and Teiten were official, state-controlled, juried art exhibitions. Nitten replaced them after the war. The meaning of these official exhibition societies for the world of Japanese arts was pretty comparable to the French Salon in the second half of the nineteenth century. The conservative Salon was the institution most hated by the French impressionists – their works were regularly rejected by the jury. And without a representation by the Salon, an artist had hardly any chance to sell anything to private collectors.

Zenko Yasuda (1926-2011), Studied under Kiyomizu Rokubei VI. First displayed nationally at the Nitten in 1950. He was awarded the prestigious Japan Ceramic Society Award in 1958 and was subsequently collected by the Metropolitan Museum of New York in 1963. Awarded at the Nitten in 1964 followed by the National Modern Crafts Exhibition in 1967 and collected by Japanese Government in 1971 (Gaimusho). A Private Exhibition of the artists work was held in San Francisco in 1978, a rarity for a Japanese artist at that time.

After the end of the Pacific war the attribute Imperial was no longer trendy. Everything was reorganized and renamed. In 1946 the Imperial Art Academy became The Japan Fine Arts Exhibition, abbreviated as Nitten. The Nitten developed into a larger organization that features multiple departments. Today the Nitten has five art faculties, Japanese Style Painting, Western Style Painting, Sculpture, Craft as Art and Calligraphy.

Kyo yaki or Kyo ware refers to a style of ceramics that spread from the Higashiyama area in Kyoto during the early Edo period of the Tokugawa rule (henceforth this family line continually ruled Japan for more than 250 years). It was around this time that the art of Chanoyu or the Tea ceremony became popular and widespread in Japan. By contrast, the pottery produced along Gojo-zaka, a street leading to Kiyomizu Temple, was called Kiyomizu yaki. Nowadays all pottery produced in Kyoto is commonly referred to as Kyo or Kiyomizu ware.

Those interested can follow this link to see an overview of award winning works at the 2001 exhibition held by the Japan Ceramic Society (Nihon Toji Kyokai). Amongst the winners were Living National Treasures, Intangible Cultural Treasures – simply some of the greatest and most famous artists including our subject potter Zenko Yasuda.

The chawan is stamped by the potter on the foot of the bowl. There are no chips or cracks and condition is mint. Comes with the original paulownia tomobako with the potters seal in red and calligraphy on the lid. A personal favorite that I think will enrich any collection.

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