Works by Imperial Household Artists – Cloisonné
In our continuing concentration on the work of Imperial Household Artists we have brought together under one roof examples of the masters in each of the fields of Metalwork and Maki-e. The present exhibition, the third in the series, focuses now on cloisonné.
In the field of handicrafts, painters and craftsmen patronized by the shogunal family and feudal lords in the Edo period lost their protection and were put in a difficult position after the Meiji Restoration. These artists found new avenues for their work, producing works for export that fascinated westerners. But as the export business increased in prosperity, a flood of products of inferior quality appeared as well as workmen engaged in the making of those products simply to eke out a living.
Given these circumstances, the institution of the Imperial Household Artists was established in 1890 (Meiji 23) to ensure the propagation and further development of the various art and craft techniques under the Imperial Household’s protection that had been cultivated from ancient times. Artisans possessing both excellent skills and noble characters were to be designated Imperial Household Artists for their merits. Artists so appointed were expected to both improve on their techniques and foster young artists.
In the field of cloisonné, Namikawa Yasuyuki (1845-1927) and Namikawa Sosuke (1847-1910) were together appointed in 1896 (Meiji 29). Following the thorough investigations by Kaji Tsunekichi (1803-1883) of Owari (Aichi prefecture) on some imported examples in the latter years of Edo, Japanese cloisonné developed by leaps and bounds in the modern period, bringing about improvements in enamels among other things. Namikawa Yasuyuki mastered wired cloisonné and combined meticulously detailed laying of wire strips with a superb sense of color. Namikawa Sosuke established a wireless form of cloisonné in which he successfully conveyed a sense of painterly brushwork. Both masters were highly praised both in Japan and abroad.
At this exhibit we bring you our glorious Namikawa Yasuyuki collection as well as masterpieces by Namikawa Sosuke and other artists of their generation. We hope you enjoy the sublime beauty on display here, left to posterity by masters who in their own time were recognized as Imperial Household Artists, the highest honor available to them.