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Kawai Kanjiro Bowl in box by Munakata Shiko


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A small bowl in Kaki-yu by important artist Kawai Kanjiro enclosed in a wooden box upon which his friend and equally important artist Munakata Shiko has painted an image of the bowl outside titled Go-Kowan (Honorable small bowl) and inside annotated: Kanjiro Sensei Saku (Made by Kanjiro), signed Munakata Shiko. It is 10 cm (4 inches) diameter and in excellent condition.
Kawai Kanjiro (1890-1966) was a true artist by nature, and together with Hamada Shoji, set a pattern of study for modern potters. After graduating the Tokyo School of Industrial Design, he came to study in Kyoto, eventually establishing his own kiln on the Gojo-no-Saka (It remains standing today and is a must see for anyone visiting Kyoto). Together with compatriots Hamada Shoji and Bernard Leach (with whom he traveled throughout Asia) established the modern Mingei movement in ceramics, the most influential ceramics movement in the 20th century. His research on glazes (of which he developed thousands over a lifetime of work) remains influential as well. Refusing to be limited to ceramics, Kanjiro also worked in bronze, wood and paint. An interesting final note on this unusual artist, when offered the title of Living National Treasure, an honor bestowed on very few, he declined.
Munakata Shiko (1903-1975) is a dominant figure in Japanese twentieth-century prints. He was also very active as a poet, critic, painter in both Western and Japanese techniques, calligrapher and book designer. Munakata was born in Aomori in northern Honshu, the sixth of fifteen children of a forger of steel blades. Leaving school at thirteen, he joined the family business, but moved to a lawyer's office at seventeen, which gave him time to sketch. In 1921 he first saw reproductions of Van Gogh's works, which remained arguably his greatest inspiration throughout his life, and began to teach himself oil-painting. He moved to Tokyo in 1924, and lived by various means including drawing educational charts while continuing to paint He was accepted at the Teiten (Imperial Exhibition) in 1928. He became inspired by woodblock prints and by 1927 was experimenting with woodblocks. The following year he had his first prints accepted at the Creative Print Association Exhibition. In 1931 he had his first one-man show of prints in Tokyo. Munakata began to write in 'Han geijutsu' magazine in 1932, which brought him into contact with Maekawa Senpan and the folk style. He fell into the circle of the Folk Art Movement with its great potter Kawai Kanjiro, and i 1936 he spent 40 days at Kawai's house where he developed a Buddhist dimension to add to his already strong folk and Shinto interests and subject-matter. The two remained lifelong friends. His home in Tokyo was destroyed in the second world war, and he spent seven years in Toyama, at the end of which his work was accepted in São Paolo in 1951, which marks the beginning of his subsequent international career. In 1952 he helped establish the Japanese Print Institute. In 1952 he won a prize at Lugano and in 1955 the first prize for prints at the São Paolo Biennale, and in 1956 at the Venice Biennale. These made his reputation not only internationally but also at home, where he now became a celebrity and was subsequently heaped with honours culminating with the 'Kunsho' (Order of Merit) in 1970. The Munakata Memorial Museum in Aomori opened the day after his funeral. There is also a museum devoted to his prints in Kamakura, while large collections of his works are in the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art, the Folk Art Museum, Tokyo, and the Ohara Museum Complex in Kurashiki.