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Kawai Kanjirō

Kawai Kanjirō

Photography by Shigeru Tamura

bio pt 1


KAWAI KANJIRŌ was a Kyoto-based potter working within the folk traditions of Japanese and Korean ceramics. He was a long-time friend of Hamada Shōji, Yanagi Soetsu, and Bernard Leach, with whom he co-founded the Japan Folk Art Association in 1926. While in Japan Kawai is just as celebrated as Hamada and Kitaōji Rosanjin, he is relatively overlooked in the West. Unlike his rivals, Kawai refused all official honors, such as the designation of “Living National Treasure,” and he did not travel to the West.

bio pt 2

By the mid-1930s, he developed a slab-building technique for beveled bowls and tiered boxes before arriving at the multifaceted and sculptural vessels of his later career. His bold, semi-abstract floral decoration flows freely in under-glaze cobalt blue, iron brown, and copper red, frequently outlined in patterns of trailing slip (tsutsugaki). Through decades of research, in part working with Tomimoto, Kawai amassed a profound understanding of Chinese glazes and by the 1960s had further differentiated his decorative style, often employing splashes of bright color.  The forms of his later pieces became multifaceted and more sculptural. His slab-molded covered boxes as well as vases are especially admired among Japanese cognoscenti.

Portland Art Museum

Portland Art Museum

Selected Public Collections:

Adachi Museum of Art, Japan
Aichi Prefectural Ceramic Museum, Japan
Art Institute of Chicago, IL
National Museum of Asian Art, Washington, DC
Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, CA
Brooklyn Museum, NY
Eisei Bunko Foundation, Tokyo, Japan
Folk Crafts Museum (Mingeikan), Tokyo, Japan
Honolulu Museum of Art, HI
Kawai Kanjiro House Museum, Kyoto, Japan
Mashiko Messe Museum, Japan
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Minneapolis Institute of Art, MN
Musée Tomo, Tokyo, Japan
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, Germany
Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Köln, Germany
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan
National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan
Ohara Museum, Kurashiki, Japan
Portland Museum of Art, OR
Saint Louis Art Museum, MO
Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FL
San Diego Museum of Art, CA
University of Michigan Art Museum, MI
Victoria & Albert­ Museum, London, UK
Virginia Museum of Art, Richmond, VA

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