Zenko Yasuda Kyo Celadon Chawan | Masterwork

Potter: Zenko Yasuda, Masahiro

Approximate size: W5.0″ by H2.7″ or 12.7 by 7.0 cm

This chawan or ceremonial tea bowl seems to have been (quite literally), imbued with life!

A masterwork by the celebrated artist Zenko Yasuda, his real name was Masahiro Yasuda. He was born in Kyoto in 1926 and stayed here for most of his life. 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.

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.

Zenko Yasuda (1926-2011), 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.

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.

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.

In 1958 he was awarded the Japanese Ceramic Society Prize and ever since then was 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 their collection.

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 high quality paulownia tomobako with the potter’s seal in red and calligraphy on the lid. Inconsequential though worth noting are a few discolourations in the wood of the lid.

I’ve been fortunate to handle and use numerous utensils by this master potter and this is first that he coupled with a high quality shiho-san tomobako or storage box, which I think speaks to the quality of the work and what Zenko Yasuda as the creator considered to be his best works.


Thank you very much!

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.