Iizuka Rokansai (1890-1958)
Item number: T-4251
Size: H 11.4" x W 7.1" (29 x 18 cm)
Madake bamboo; free-style twining around double verticals, square plaiting (on the base), wrapping; otoshi (water container) made from a lacquered unsplit culm of bamboo
Signed: Rokansai saku (Made by Rokansai)
Fitted wood tomobako storage box inscribed outside Hanakago (Flower basket); inscribed and signed inside Mei Gyofu (Named “Fisherman”) Rokansai saku (Made by Rokansai) with interlinked seals: Ro, Kan, Sai
Arguably the most creative and influential of all Japanese bamboo artists, Iizuka Rokansai was born the youngest son of Iizuka Hosai I, and began his training in bamboo art under his father at the age of 12. During his teenage years he briefly aspired to become a painter, but soon decided to make it his life’s mission to raise the family craft to a higher level of artistry and refinement. To that end, he immersed himself not just in technical training, but also in the study of Chinese and Japanese literature, as well as calligraphy and other aspects of traditional Japanese art. Rokansai categorized bamboo art in the same way as calligraphy or flower-arrangement, as either shin (formal), gyo (semiformal), or so (informal). Although he excelled in all three manners, he described the so, while superficially relaxed and freestyle, as the most difficult to execute because it demands the greatest clarity of artistic vision. By 1910 Rokansai was already accomplished enough to work on pieces that would be signed by his eldest brother, Hosai II. He first received public recognition in 1922 when he exhibited at the Peace Memorial Tokyo Exposition, winning a silver medal; he also participated in the Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes, held in Paris in 1925. He showed at the Teiten national fine arts exhibition and its successors from 1931 until the end of his life.
This actual box signature, with its distinctive calligraphy and three interlinked seals, is reproduced in Tochigi Kenritsu Bijutsukan (Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts), Iizuka Rokansai ten (Iizuka Rokansai: Master of Modern Bamboo Crafts), Utsunomiya, 1989, in a special section analyzing the chronology of Rokansai’s signatures and seals, where it is given a date of circa 1927