Iizuka Rokansai (1890-1958)

“Good Fortune and Long Life” Handled Flower Basket

Iizuka Rokansai (1890-1958)

Item number: T-2256
Size: H 11.5" x W 13" x D 12" (29.1 x 32.9 x 30.4 cm)

Other views

ca. early 1930s

Signed underneath Rōkansai 琅玕斎
Fitted sugi (cryptomeria) wood tomobako storage box inscribed outside Hanakago 花籃 (Flower basket); inscribed and signed inside Mei Fukuju Rōkansai saku 銘 福寿 琅玕斎作 (Named “Good Fortune and Long Life,” made by Rōkansai); triple seal: Rō, kan, sai 琅, 玕, 斎

Perhaps the most creative and influential Japanese bamboo artist of all time, Iizuka Rōkansai was born the youngest son of Iizuka Hōsai I, and began his training in bamboo art under his father at the age of 12. By 1910, when the family moved from Tochigi to Tokyo, Rōkansai was already accomplished enough to work on pieces that would be signed by his eldest brother and teacher, Hōsai II, but he was never satisfied by mere technical mastery. Inspired by exposure to the metropolitan artistic and literary scene and the varied works in both Japanese and Western styles that he saw on display at the annual

Bunten national exhibitions, he immersed himself in the study of Chinese and Japanese literature and calligraphy, as well as other aspects of traditional and contemporary Japanese and Western culture.

Throughout the rest of his career Rōkansai would strive to take basketry far beyond mere skilled artisanship, seeking to attain ever higher levels of creativity, refinement, and significance. He catego- rized bamboo art in the same way as calligraphy
or flower-arrangement, as either shin (formal), gyō (semi-formal), or sō (informal). Although he ex- celled in all three manners, he described sō, while superficially relaxed and freestyle, as the most difficult to execute because it demands the great- est clarity of artistic vision. In this early example of the sō style, Rōkansai enhances the complex weave through careful choice of materials, combining split strands of bamboo darkened to a range of colors due to differing periods of exposure to smoke from the hearths of old farmhouses. Rōkansai coined many names for his works and typically applied them to several pieces; another basket in a very dif- ferent style, also called Fukuju (“Good Fortune and Long Life”), was published as the first piece in a ground-breaking Rōkansai catalogue published in 1989. The use in the box inscription of a seal made up of three interlinked circles Rō, Kan, Sai (琅、玕、 斎) suggests a date in the early 1930s, a conjecture that is confirmed by similar baskets dated to 1933 and circa 1934.1 


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