KITAŌJI ROSANJIN (1883-1959)
Shigaraki sake flask with horizontal ribbing and dripping ash glaze
Glazed stoneware with Totōan box
7 1/4 x 5 in.
Potter’s mark: Ro (incised on shoulder)
Box title: Kitaōji Rosanjin sensei no saku Shigaraki-do haikaburi dai-tokkuri; By Kitaōji Rosanjin, ash-covered large sake flask with Shigaraki clay (inside cover)
Box signature: Kuroda Tōtōan shiki, Reiwa kigai (2019)
Box seal: Tōtōan (Yūsai box)
Kitaōji Rosanjin (1883-1959) redefined the ceramic tradition in a remarkable array of styles, forms, and glazes during a critical period of artistic development in pre- and postwar Japan. Appearing effortless, he made classical forms that recalled ancient archetypes while simultaneously expressing his unmistakable individuality. Rosanjin was not, however, unaware of the ancient past; he owned an antiques gallery in Tokyo and was a voracious collector of antiques himself. “An artist must have unlimited freedom… Those unable to break with tradition cannot hope to gain new knowledge,” Rosanjin wrote in 1932 (from The Art of Rosanjin, by S.B. Cardozo and M. Hirano, trans. J.W. Carpenter, 1987). Yet he cautioned that "the mistaken ‘freedom’ of those with no learning is better called haphazardness.” Rosanjin believed ancient wares to be best suited for presenting food, but unable to assemble complete sets of antique vessels for his exclusive eating club in Tokyo, he set about making ceramics himself.
Rosanjin’s sake flask recalls the key characteristics of Shigaraki ware, but with distinctly ‘Rosanjin’ touches: the liberally poured glaze results in heavy pools over the surface (unlike the thin veneer of glaze on ancient types), and the generously sized flask body ensures a lively social gathering befitting his bon vivant demeanor. Always conscious of the primary function of a serving vessel—to hold and serve food and drink—the flask is easily lifted, and the rounded rim that Rosanjin preferred not only looks more inviting but enables sake to be poured easily with limited spilling.