- Also known as
Itaya Hazan 板谷波山
primary name: Itaya Hazan
- individual; ceramicist/glass worker/potter; Japanese; Male
- Life dates
- Celebrated as the first modern art potter in Japan and one of the most important Japanese ceramists of the 20th century. The only 20th century ceramic artist to have his work registered as an Important Cultural Property. Trained as a sculpture historian at the prestigious National University for Arts and Music. His professors were Takamura Kōun and Okakura Tenshin. After embarking on a career as an art historian, however, he took the momentous decision that he would become a ceramic artist, at the age of 30. This type of career change without any previous background or family connections in the trade was unheard of in Japan at the time. However, from the beginning Hazan received considerable support. He was able to introduce the first French-designed western kiln into Japan and worked with professional wheel throwers, first in his hometown of Shimodate in Ibaraki prefecture. He created perfect works, inspired by his academic friends’ fields of study (Shōsō-in, Hōryū-ji, China, and Art Nouveau). He was close to the famous restorer of ancient monuments at the time, Niiro Chunosuke, who supplied Hazan with sketches of the work he was restoring. Hazan’s working methods, which included detailed drawings, carving and experimental glaze colours, was meticulous and he produced on average only about 20 works a year. His ceramics are highly sought after in Japan and only a few find their way onto the open market. Most are in museum collections, such as the Idemitsu Museum of Arts (which holds half of his surviving work), the Sumitomo Collection, the Imperial Household Agency, Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo Museum of Modern Art. There are only a handful of his works in collections outside Japan. The most famous is in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore created in 1915. Hazan showed his works at domestic expositions and in the Teiten, the imperial exhibitions held before WWII. Hazan became a judge of the Teiten from 1927 when art crafts such as ceramics were first included and he was subsequently awarded with ‘Imperial craftsman’ (teishitsu gigei-in) status -- in essence ‘artist-potter to the imperial collections’. His career continued after the war and in 1954 he was the first potter to be awarded the ‘Order of Cultural Merit’ (bunka kunshō).
In Japan there have been numerous exhibitions -- over 50 -- based on the ceramic art of Itaya Hazan, as well as many scholarly articles, books and even one feature length film. Until now, however, scholarly work on Itaya Hazan has been entirely in Japanese. Many of the exhibitions have taken place at the Idemitsu Museum of Arts (Tokyo), which holds in their collections approximately 50% of the artist’s output. Other exhibitions have been held at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (Itaya Hazanten [Itaya Hazan Exhibition] in1995), the Tokyo branch of the Sen’oku Hakkokan, which displays the Sumitomo Corporation holdings and possess the Hazan vase that has been designated a Important Cultural Property (for example, recently in an exhibition entitled Hazan o meguru kindai tôji [Understanding Modern Ceramics through Itaya Hazan] in 2009). Multiple solo exhibitions of his work have taken place in the Ibaraki Prefectural Museum of Ceramics, Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art, Kanagawa Prefectural Modern art Museum, Fukuoka Prefectural Art Museum, Shiga Prefectural Modern Art Museum, Osaka City Art Museum, Shimodate City Museum, Tsurui Collection Museum, etc. His work is always included in exhibitions in Japan when there is a retrospective of Japanese modern ceramics that includes early 20th century material.