History of Kutani ware

pre-history of the Kiln -from Old Kutani to Revival Kutani

Kutani-yaki is a general term for ceramics with over glaze enamels produced in Kaga district, Ishikawa prefecture. Its history dates back to around 1655, the beginning of Edo period. Ordered by Maeda Toshiharu (1618-1660) who was a first lord of Daisho-ji clan, branch of Kaga clan, Goto Saijiro, who learned ceramic techniques in Arita, established a kiln in Kutani (present Kutani, Yamanaka-machi of Ishikawa prefecture) within the domain of Maeda Toshiharu. This was said to be the beginning of Kutani-yaki. Ceramic works produced around then are called Old Kutani and have been appreciated highly still now. Its characteristics are over glaze paintings of novel and bold patterns with five brilliant colors, red, blue (green), yellow, purple and navy blue. Among them a style of applying four colors except red glaze all over is called ‘nuriume-de’. Works with this style are ‘aode-Kutani’ , one of the representative styles of Kutani-yaki. Old Kutani kilns, however, suddenly ended around 1730 within one hundred years after its establishment. The cause is somehow unknown and still remains a lot of mysteries. The history of Kutani-yaki began again in about 80 years after an abolishment of Old Kutani. Invited by Kaga clan, a painter and potter Aoki Mokubei (1767-1833) moved from Kyoto together with his assistant potter Honda Sadakichi (1766-1819) in 1806. He built Kasugayama Kiln in Utatsuyama, Kanazawa in 1807. Sadakichi found porcelain stone in Hanasaka village of Nomi county (present Hanasaka-machi of Komatsu city) around 1811 and established Wakasugi Kiln under the management of Hayashi Yahei. Since then many new kilns were established in various areas with their own styles; Ono Kiln by Yabu Rokuemon (1790-1872) who learned from Sadakichi, Minzan Kiln established with regret of the abolishment of Kasugayama Kiln, Aoya Gen’ emon Kiln by Aoya Gen’ emon (1789-1858) who was well-known as a skilled potter, Yoshidaya Kiln established in the same place as Old Kutani Kiln, Miyamotoya Kiln which succeeded Yoshidaya Kiln, Eiraku Kiln (Kutani Main Kiln) by a well-skilled Eiraku Wazen (1823-1896) who was invited from Kyoto, and many others. Works made in these kilns are called ‘Revival Kutani’ . Inheriting techniques and styles of Old Kutani, they produced new styles of their own. Figures painted in five colors in the Chinese fashion on a red background were characteristic of Aoki Mokubei’s porcelain. Yoshidaya Kiln aimed to revive ‘aode-Kutani’ and established a thick style which has main patterns on small patterns background. The characteristic of works by Miyamotoya Kiln was detailed and fine patterns drawn in red glaze called akae-saibyo. Iidaya Kiln added gold decoration to this akae-saibyo technique and established their own style. In the Eiraku Kiln style, the whole surface was drawn red first and then patterns were added with only gold. Above all Kutani Shouza (1816-1883) is worthy of special mention, who created a modern Kutani-yaki style. Having learned overglaze paintings from Aoya Genemon and akae-saibyo at Miyamotoya Kiln, Shoza moved back to Terai (present Terai-machi, Nomi city) and built a kiln there in 1841. In 1868, Shoza adopted western pigments earlier than others and succeeded in creating intermediate colors, which could not be achieved only with Japanese pigments. He established a style of overglaze enamels and Kinrande style, with which gold decorations are applied over paintings with western pigments. Shoza draw paintings of historical subjects or farm landscape in a window-style composition called madori and applied overglaze red enamels and gold decoration on a ground. This style achieved a reputation and has been a main style of Kutani-yaki since Meiji era.

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