Zenko Yasuda Kyo Mishima Chawan

Potter: Zenko Yasuda, Masahiro

Approximate size: W4.3″ by W4.1″ by H2.8″ or 11.0 by 10.5 by 8.5 cm

A chawan made in the style of old Kiyomizu ware tea bowls featuring mishima inlay by master-potter Zenko Yasuda. His real name was Masahiro Yasuda and born in Kyoto in 1926. This work is quite special and only rarely have I encountered work by Zenko Yasuda that is not in his own distinctive style. This may be an utsushi chawan of sorts (utsushi or ‘faithful replica’ are works that have been admired in established Japanese ceramics as creating such works requires extremely skilled and broad-based techniques in all aspects of creation), in order to study and pay homage to the old masters and style transitions of the past. 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 and one of my personal favourites.

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 all but especially Japanese artists at the time.

The inlay technique known as ‘mishima’ (at times called ‘sanggamn’), is said to have come from the Japanese island of Mishima although it is, like many things in the history of Japanese pottery connected and adopted from Korea. Mishima was pottery is said to have been first produced in Korea during the Koryo period (935-1392), and was further developed in the 12th and 13th century Korean celadon’s. The term gained popularity and the inlays were said to resemble or contain traits of a type of seal-script that was used on calendars, first created at the shrine in Mishima.

Mishima is a technique of inlaying slip, under-glaze and even contrasting clay into the main clay body of the pottery piece. This technique creates extremely fine, intricate design work with hard, sharp edges that can be difficult to reliably replicate in any other way.

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.

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.

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.

The chawan is stamped by the potter next to the koudai or foot of the bowl. There are no chips or cracks and condition is mint. Comes with the original paulownia tomobako or storage box with the artist’s calligraphy and seal on the lid.

€380 + shipping cost

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.