Japanese calligraphy


One of the first painters who developed calligraphy in ceramics was Oda Seizan at the middle of Meiji period. He improved this technique established few years before and specialized in this field. Only few painters have since succeeded to reach a similar level.

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昭山 Shozan - 錦山窯 Kinzan kiln - Hyakunin isshu - Comtemporary
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住田岳陽 Sumida Gakuyo 2nd - Sanjurokka sen - 2000

In the data base, Kutani ceramics with calligraphy are classified according to 3 criteria which can be combined:

  • name of calligraphist who generally did only inside calligraphy
  • name of the painter or potter who did the pot and the painting
  • name of the kiln which has produced the ceramic

When the calligraphist is not identified, it is marked unknown.

The motifs used by the artists refer almost always to Japanese traditionnal litterature and mainly Japanese poems called Waka (和歌). Waka is a japanese short poem written with 31 syllabes in five lines of 5, 7, 5, 7, 7 syllabes.

I would say that probably 75% of all calligraphy refer to 2 most famous poems

小倉百人一首 - Ogura Hyakunin isshu - 100 persons one poem

This is a compilation of the 100 most famous poems written by 100 different poets in a Waka style. This compilation is very famous and every Japanese know about and for the most advanced student know the whole content.

This particular compilation running from the seven to the thirtenth century is said to have been made by a poet called Fujiwara no Sadaie or Teika (1162- 1241) from Ogura district in Kyoto.

This is so famous that there is a game card generally played at new year’s with the 100 poems and players should tell the end of the poem at the view of the first sentences.
For a full text of the poem - Courtesy of Virginia University
Example of titles of the Hyakunin Isshu poem:

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三十六歌仙 - Sanju rokkasen - The 36 immortal poets

It is a list of the most famous poets compiled in the Xth century by Fujiwara no Kinto as representative of the period. All these poets were specialist of Waka.These poets are also called the immortals.
Example of titles of the Sanjurokka sen motif:

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Note: All photos are coming from Kutani pieces recorded in the database