photo: SAIKI Taku

Ornamental box, overglaze enamels

ArtistTOMIMOTO Kenkichi
Material/ Techniqueporclain
Size/ DurationH8.8×W14.2×D8.5cm
Year of acquisition/ donation2004
DescriptionBorn in Nara, Japan in 1886. Died in Osaka in 1963.

Tomimoto Kenkichi majored in architecture and interior decoration at the Design Department of the Tokyo School of Ar t. Before graduating he went to study at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London, while based at the Victoria and Albert Museum to deepen his research. Following his return to Japan he became closely associated with Bernard LEACH and in 1913 began working in earnest as a ceramicist. He was one of the first Japanese artists to pursue full, individual expression in the field of ceramics. Throughout his career he worked on the creation of new designs through sketching. After studying Raku ware, tsuchiyaki (stoneware), underglaze blue, white porcelain and overglaze color painting, he also established the use of overglaze enamels in gold and silver, as a result of which he came to be regarded as a pioneer of modern ceramics in Japan. He advocated and put into practice his own ideas on the design of high-quality, functional items with mass production in mind, regarding craft as a form of expression based on a modern consciousness.

Created in 1941, this piece has four-petal flowers of different sizes painted with fluid brushwork on both the outside of the lid and the inside of the body. These four-petal flowers, which create a different atmosphere from that of his complex, bright “four-petal flower design,” are simple yet imbued with an unconstrained vitality. Occasionally Tomimoto used similar designs here and there on different pieces, but pieces with this design as their main design are rare. 1941, the year that this piece was made, was the year that Tomimoto perfected his four-petal flower running pattern. It was also year that he revisited Kutani and produced multicolored overglaze porcelain. The confidence that his mastery of multicolored overglaze porcelain techniques gave him can be seen in his use of color and in his brushwork. Throughout his life Tomimoto lived and worked in Nara, Tokyo, and Kyoto, and this important piece offers valuable insights into the creation and process leading up to the perfection of this pattern and into his fruitful creative activities during his Tokyo years.