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T H REE G E N E R AT I O N S OF WA D A WA IC HI S A I


THREE GENERAT IONS OF WADA WA ICH ISA I The written history of modern Japanese bamboo art starts in late 19th century Osaka with three names: Hayakawa Shokosai of Funaba district, Wada Waichisai of Sumiyoshi district, and Donkosai of Nanba district. A charismatic and visionary artist, Shokosai I is often credited as the pioneer who initiated the evolution of bamboo craft to an individual art form. The Donkosai name and lin-eage died out after two generations, leaving so few records that experts are not able to even identify a full family name. Waichisai I is known primarily for his importance as a teacher. His students and mentees included Wada Waichisai II, Tanabe Chikuunsai I, Yamashita Kochikusai, Yamamoto Chikuryosai I, and Maeda Chikubosai I, many of whom established their own successful sub-lineages. Though the importance of the Wada lineage is widely recognized, little is known about the artist who founded it and his direct descendants. This historical exhibition explores the art and history of Wada Waichisai I, II and III as well as the artists’ relationship to the Osaka-based bunjin (literati) culture and sencha tea practice. Osaka became the birthplace of modern bamboo art due to the popularity of sencha tea ceremony in the region. Senchado (way of infused tea) emerged in the Kansai region during the Edo period (1600 -1867) and was based on the philosophy and method of drinking brewed tea leaves developed by the Chinese literati of the Ming Dynasty. Senchado stood in opposition to the formal hierarchies of the matcha-based Chanoyu and its accompanying cultural values. Sencha’s more relaxed, convivial gatherings, Confucian ideals, and veneration of traditional Chinese culture were embraced by the literati of Osaka. Chinese literature, painting, antiquities, and philosophy were passionately studied, discussed and imitated by Japanese bunjin. Elaborate baskets were but one of the karamono (Chinese things) that were admired and incorporated into the sencha gatherings of the literati. They were used to display artistic arrangements of seasonal flowers and plants. During the Edo period, when genuine Chinese imports were in short supply, Japanese basket makers began to make karamono-style baskets, which were intended to replicate Chinese basketry to the minutest detail. This was how Hayakawa


Shokosai I and Wada Waichisai I first established their reputations in19th-century Osaka. Although their introduction to the literati was as highly skilled artisans and copyists for hire, they soon became sencha practitioners and part of the bunjin movement themselves. They incorporated its philosophy of self-improvement and emphasis on creative expression into their life and work. They thought of themselves as artists with pride. These early bamboo artists respected and admired karamono baskets, but they also valued free thinking and were not afraid of violating the old rules and protocols. Just as sencha evolved from a painstaking imitation of the Chinese practice of drinking steeped tea leaves to an inescapably Japanese form of expression, the same transformation can be traced in the work of the three generations of men who bore the name Wada Waichisai. Through his own work and through his influence on the artists he trained, Waichisai I helped to establish an original Japanese style in bamboo art. Waichisai II was the first to work with variety of Japanese bamboo species, showcasing their inherent beauty and special characteristics in his art. He championed the idea that the use of Japanese bamboo is what makes Japanese bamboo art distinct from karamono basketry. Waichisai III demonstrated an unusual iconoclasm – divorcing himself from the artistic trends and milieu of the day to create works that express a strong personal aesthetic of duality. He executed historic forms with innovative, experimental touches and an almost minimalist approach. By combining a reverence for the past with an interest in personal expression, the three generations of this lineage developed their own unique, and uniquely Japanese, bunjin-style basket. n Koichi Okada


WADA WAICHISAI LINEAGE OF BAMBOO ARTISTS

WADA WAICHISAI L INE AGE OF BAMBOO ART ISTS Wada Waichisai I (1851-1904*)

Yamamoto Chikuryōsai I (1868-1945)

Enozo Kōichisai (1881-1951)

Suemura Ezono Yamamoto Shōbun Chikuryōsai II Chikubisai (1917-2000) (1898-1976) (1889-1974)

Yamashita Kōchikusai (1876-1947)

Suzuki Gengensai (1891- ?) (1891-1950)

Inose Kōhōsai (1897-1991)

Wada Waichisai II (1877-1933)

Wada Waichisai III (1899-1975)

Tanabe Chikuunsai I (1877-1937)

Sakaguchi Sōunsai (1899-1967)

Maeda Chikubōsai I (1872-1950)

Tanabe Chikuunsai II (1910-2000)

Ueda Shōunsai (1897-1990)

Tanabe Minoura Tanabe Yota Chikuhō Chikuunsai III (1944-2008) (1934-2010) (1940-2014)

Tanabe Chikuunsai IV (1973-)

Tanabe Mitsuko (1944-)

Maeda Chikubōsai II (1917-2003)

Tanioka Shigeo (1949-)

Tanioka Aiko (1947-2017)

Dotted lines indicate an informal teacher-student relationship.

Dotted linesa indicate an breadth informaland teacher-student This chart is intended to give sense of the longevity of therelationship. Wada lineage, but it is not a complete representation of all artists with ties to the lineage. This chart is intended to give a sense of the breadth and longevity of the Wada lineage but is not a complete representation of all artists with ties to the lineage. *There are 2 possible death dates for Wada Waichidai I: 1901 or 1904. 1904 was the date supplied by the Wada family, so we have chosen to use that. There are 2 possible death dates for Wada Waichisai I: 1901 or 1904. 1904 was the date supplied by the Wada family, so we have chosen to use that.

This exhibition is 11 years in the making. One reason it took so long to put this show together was that it took almost that long to figure out which Waichisai made which basket. Typically, you can identify a basket’s creator by the signature or box writing. However, all three generations signed their baskets as “Waichisai.” The process of identification is further complicated by the facts that there are so few confirmed examples of Waichisai I’s signature, Waichisai II changed his signature style several times during the course of his 32-year career, and Waichisai III’s early signature is almost identical to his father’s late signature. Eventually, after the author did extensive handwriting comparisons and some detective work, the gallery reached a point of being confident enough in its attributions to have this show.


WA D A WA I C HI S A I I Kobangata (Oval-shaped) Basket, 1895 -1904,10 Ă— 16 Ă— 12.5 inches


WA DA WA ICHISAI I (1851-1904) The founder of the Wada lineage was born into a basket making family during the late Edo period. His given name was Ichimatsu. The family lived near the Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine, and his father made functional bamboo baskets which he sold at his shop near the main gate. Business must have been good, as his father was later described as an influential man about town. Ichimatsu began learning the family trade at a young age. The Grand Shrine attracted many visitors, including prominent members of the Japanese literati. One day, a group of these visitors suggested that Ichimatsu try his hand at making a karamono basket for sencha tea ceremony. Having admired several intricate examples of imported Chinese flower baskets, Wada bravely faced the challenge of learning a new style of basketry. A key feature of a karamono -style basket is the sophisticated use of rattan details. According to a 1960 interview with Wada Waichisai III, though Ichimatsu had mastered the skills to make functional baskets, he still needed to learn fine rattan knotting and wrapping techniques. One of his supporters introduced Ichimatsu to Hayakawa Shokosai I, who had studied rattan-plaiting before switching to bamboo. Ichimatsu learned the necessary rattan techniques from Shokosai and reciprocated by passing along certain bamboo handling techniques. Wada’s training also took him to a dye shop in Sakai City, where he learned the most effective ways to dye his finely crafted baskets. Ichimatsu must have been greatly motivated when he learned that Shokosai I had won the Phoenix Medal at the very first Domestic Industrial Exhibition in 1877. Shokosai’s prize-winning tea ceremony box was acquired by the Empress of Japan, a pivotal moment for the formal recognition of bamboo as an art form. Fueled by friendly competition, Ichimatsu also began submitting work to these prestigious national exhibitions. In 1881, at the age of 30, he won an award at the second Domestic Industrial Exhibition, establishing him as a peer and rival of Shokosai I. In 1891, with the founding of the Osaka division of the Japan Art Association, Ichimatsu and Shokosai I were named master-instructors in bamboo art. For the 25th Wedding Anniversary of the Emperor Meiji in 1894, the chief priest of Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine gifted the Emperor with an impressive offering tray by Wada. A former regent, Prince Konoe Tadahiro, was so impressed by Ichimatsu’s tray that he bestowed on him the artist’s name “Waichisai” ( first in Japan). A year later, the newly-christened Waichisai won another award at the fourth Domestic Industrial Exhibition, which cemented his position as a leader of this art form.


Although a fair amount is known about Waichisai I’s history, assessing his art is more difficult due to the scarcity of works. The few works that are available for study are all from late in his career. Wada did not begin using the name Waichisai until 1895 or later. The works he sent to national exhibitions were all submitted under his given name of Wada Ichimatsu. According to Tanabe Chikuunsai I, Wada had also used the artist’s name of Chikuunsai before gifting it to his student. However, the author has not seen any works signed as either Wada Ichimatsu or Wada Chikuunsai. Perhaps the artist did not sign his work early in his career. Or perhaps the bulk of Wada’s work was destroyed in the 1945 Bombing of Osaka. Despite the lack of physical examples, one can extrapolate some characteristics of Wada’s artistic style through the accounts of his contemporaries and students. Waichisai I was known as a master of the bunjin style and was highly acclaimed for his technical skills. This is further corroborated by the fact that his students also possessed superb technical mastery. The Waichisai I example in this show, Kobangata (Oval-shaped) Basket, demonstrates an evolution from the intricate karamono baskets he was famous for. Whereas the karamono style necessitates highly decorative and complex rattan work, this boat-shaped basket was created entirely of overdyed susutake, omitting rattan altogether. Waichisai I focused on the beauty and texture of the material in this piece — when the viewer comes near, they will see the exquisite knife-work on the surface of each bamboo strip. Another noticeable feature is the powerful and evocative plaiting style, a variation of the hemp-leaf pattern with added irregularity. The development of irregular plaiting styles created a characteristically Japanese expression of the natural world, recalling the jutting of a mountain or the flowing of a river. The use of these irregular weaves also speaks to the mind-set of a creator with a strong desire to leave behind works that cannot be copied or repeated. For Wada Waichisai I, this distinctive basket is emblematic of the shift from a highly skilled craftsman to an expressive and creative artist.


WA DA WA ICHI SAI II (1877-1933) Wada Shikazo, Waichisai I’s son, was said to be weak and delicate at birth, and he did not begin to seriously study bamboo art under his father until around 1896. Normally, the successors of an artistic lineage in Japan start their training as children or young teens, so the fact that Shikazo did not begin his until the age of 19 further suggests that he was indeed not healthy enough until that time. As a result, Shikazo had less than a decade of experience when his father passed away and he assumed the artist’s name of Waichisai. Around 1907, Waichisai II left Osaka and moved to Arima, a hot springs town known for its healing waters and basket production. While he was regaining his health, Waichisai II taught bamboo basket making to local craftsmen. The year is unknown, but at some point Waichisai II moved from Arima to Kobe. In 1919, he was among the founding members of Naniwa Ran-yukai ( the Bamboo Artists Association of Osaka), which included prominent bamboo artists such as Tanabe Chikuunsai I, Yamamoto Chikuryusai I, Maeda Chikubosai I, Yamashita Kochikusai and Edono Chikubisai. Despite his physical relocation, Waichisai II was still recognized and respected as an Osaka artist and heir to a great Osaka lineage. Waichisai II continued working in Kobe until his death in June of 1933. A prominent feature of Wada Waichisai II’s work is his frequent use of black bamboo. Black bamboo grows in a range of color from a warm speckled brown to dark purple to nearly ebony. Artists therefore do not need to solely rely upon dye to achieve rich coloring when using black bamboo. The natural irregularity of the surface color further adds to the visual interest. Black bamboo is more flexible than the traditional timber bamboo, so Waichisai II was able to create interesting textures and forms by twisting and contorting the material. Waichisai II was certainly one of the earliest artists, if not the first, to use this unique species for basket making. Waichisai II was also one of the first artists to use undyed blond-colored madake bamboo, dating back to 1916, — a direct departure from his father, who spent considerable time and effort learning special dye techniques.

WA D A WA I C HI S A I I I Untitled Flower Basket, 1904- mid 1920s,18 × 9.5 × 9.5 inches


Waichisai II’s sophisticated sense of form and relaxed plaiting indicate a mature aesthetic of understated beauty. The pliability of black bamboo allowed Waichisai II to twist flat strips of bamboo around a basket’s verticals like a climbing vine, creating a weaving effect that no one had seen before. Breath of Fresh Air is an excellent example of this signature technique. The basket’s title in Japanese is Seifu, a Chinese-derived term that held a great deal of significance to sencha devotees and was symbolic of the courtly elegance and spiritual refinement idealized by the bunjin. Though the overall shape of this basket pays tribute to karamono style, it shows Waichisai II’s commitment to innovation and personal expression in bamboo art. By the 1920s, Waichisai II had started to give artistic and thematic, rather than purely descriptive, titles to his work such as Thunderbolt, Mountain Path, and Breath of Fresh Air ( Seifu ). He was a trailblazer in this area of bamboo art as well. In pure literati style, Waichisai II also gave a poetic, Chinese-influenced gloss to his later box-writing. The six character description of his studio’s location, inscribed on the underside of the lid along with his signature, employs obscure Chinese characters, references to Japanese history, lyrical allusions to nature and a possible pun.

WA D A WA I C HI S A I I I Breath of Fresh Air, 1904- mid 1920s, 22 × 8.5 × 8.75 inches


WA D A WA I C HI S A I I I Mountain Path, 1920s, 16.25 × 11.5 × 11.5 inches (two views )


WA D A WA I C HI S A I I I Thunderbolt,1930,13 × 10 × 10 inches Hanging Flower Basket, 1904 -1920s,14.25 × 5.5 × 5.5 inches (right)


WADA WAICHISAI II Breath of Fresh Air, 1904 to mid 1920s, 21.25 x 10 x 10 inches


WA D A WA I C HI S A I I I Treasure Ship, late 1920s -1933, 8.25 × 16.75 × 11.5 inches


WA D A WA I C HI S A I I I Untitled Flower Basket, 1904- mid 1920s,16 × 11 × 9.5 inches Basket for Flowers, 1904 -1920s,13.25 × 5 × 5 inches (left )


WA DA WA ICHI SAI III (1899-1975 ) Wada Shigekazu was born in 1899, the oldest son of Shikazo and grandson to the famous Waichisai I. Shigekazu began training under his father at the age of thirteen and was eventually given the artist’s name of Issai. Issai achieved early success at a public exhibition when he won the Best in Show prize at the Osaka Art Exhibition in 1924. In 1927, the Imperial Art Exhibition accepted craft art submissions for the first time. Issai submitted his work along with other famous basket artists from the Kansai and Kanto regions. All of the bamboo art submissions were rejected by the jury. Many of the rejected bamboo artists were insulted and felt that the authorities of the art academy were not qualified to judge bamboo art; Issai may have been one of them. For whatever reason, he never again submitted work to a national exhibition. However, he continued to pursue his career as independent artist. Shortly after the Imperial Art Exhibition, Issai moved to Tokyo, where he was immediately offered a solo show at the prestigious Tokyo Mitsukoshi gallery. Prince Chichibu-no-miya, Prince Asaka-no-miya, and Prince Kuni-no-miya all visited and purchased works from the show. 1927 proved to be a landmark year for Issai, as he also got married and was soon expecting his first child. Having proven his artistic talent and with a growing family and aging parents, Issai left Tokyo in 1928 to move back to Kobe. In 1933, his father died, and Issai became the third Wada Waichisai. In 1935, his reputation was such that the City of Kobe commissioned a flower basket from the 36 year old artist — a work entitled Juraku — which was gifted to the Showa Emperor. In 1940, Waichisai III had a second solo exhibition at the Tokyo Mitsukoshi gallery, where the Imperial Crown Prince Uimin of Korea and his wife Ri Masako came to see the show and made a purchase. As World War II intensified, the Japanese government issued the Regulation of the Production and Sale of Luxury Items act in 1940. This regulation stated that only selected artists were permitted to continue making art during wartime. Fortunately, the prefectural governor designated Waichisai III as one of those distinguished artists, and in 1941 Waichisai III won one of the top prizes at the Hyogo Prefectural Art Exhibition.

WA D A WA I C HI S A I I I I Long Life and Happiness, 1933 -1945,12 × 8 × 8 inches


Towards the end of the war, the United States launched a strategic bombing campaign against military and civilian targets in Japan’s home islands. On March 16, 1945, the firebombing of Kobe commenced and continued into the following day. The Wada family lost their home and son during the bombing and fled to Sumoto Cit y on Awaji Island. Although devastated by his losses, Waichisai III continued his work on Awaji Island after the war ended. In 1951, when the Sumoto Cit y Art Exhibition added a Craft Art Division, Waichisai III was appointed to serve as a judge for the first of many times. Waichisai III became ill in 1972 and died in 1975. In 1985, on the 10th anniversary of Waichisai III’s death, the Awaji History and Culture Museum held a retrospective exhibition of 72 pieces by Wada Waichisai II and III. In a 1963 publication, bamboo artist Baba Shodo says of Waichisai III, “In the bamboo art world, the third is the best known. He specializes in tea ceremony works and is known for his engaging and elegant style.” Waichisai III’s work reflects the Wada family’s continued ties to sencha tea ceremony and Osaka bunjin aesthetics. Waichisai III draws upon the Wada family traditions of using bamboo varietals such as black and smoked bamboos and demonstrates an affinity for the refined literati forms his father and his grandfather created. Presentation Tray is a classic Osaka shape and idea, but it is woven from the black bamboo that was a signature material of Waichisai II. Waichisai III’s personal artistic style paired simplified shapes and textures with exquisite details and decorative touches. His silhouettes are clean and striking, and his open forms are minimalistic, relying more upon the flow and rhythm of the bamboo than surface textures. Waichisai III’s rattan knots are precise, perfectly scaled to the dimension of the bamboo strips and have wonderful personalit y. Waichisai III also introduced new decorative elements, such as applying diamond shapes in gold leaf to his otoshi (water container). In more formal works, like Tobacco Tray and Flower Basket, he sometimes added a series of metal beads covered by a coat of black lacquer. This was an homage to early Chinese-style decorative elements but with an innovative twist. In earlier generations, the beads had been made by carving bamboo into a small domes, making Waichisai III’s inlay of metal beads highly unusual.

WA D A WA I C HI S A I I I I Grass that Shimmers Crimson, 1933 -1945,16 × 11 × 11 inches


WA D A WA I C HI S A I I I I Flower Basket, late 1940s -1972 12 × 12 × 12 inches


WA D A WA I C HI S A I I I I Teardrop -shaped Vessel, late 1940s -1972,18.5 × 10 × 9 inches


WA D A WA I C HI S A I I I I Tobacco Tray, late 1940s -1972, 4 × 7.5 × 10.5 inches


WA D A WA I C HI S A I I I I Jewel -shaped Vessel, 1945 -1950, 20.5 × 9.75 × 9.75 inches


WA D A WA I C HI S A I I I I Presentation Tray, late 1940s -1972, 8.75 × 10.25 × 10.25 inches


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Three Generations of Wada Waichisai  

Three Generations of Wada Waichisai is an exhibition of 16 works from this influential, but little studied bamboo art lineage. Wada Waichisa...

Three Generations of Wada Waichisai  

Three Generations of Wada Waichisai is an exhibition of 16 works from this influential, but little studied bamboo art lineage. Wada Waichisa...