Born in Fukushima, Watanabe-san studied under Traditional Yajirou Master Sato, Tatsuo of Miyagi Prefecture. Arguably, the most popular and prolific of the 20th/c Sosaku Kokeshi artists, he began his craft in the early 1950s. He is famous for not only minimally carving beautiful woods, but also for his use of gessoed surfaces and lacquer to add another dimension to many of his dolls. His faces almost unamimously depict a universal theme of ‘innocence’ (Mushin). A multiple-award winner, his works are permanently exhibited at the Nuremberg Toy Museum in Germany.
Collector's note – descriptive qualities, standard characteristics & ornamentation styles:
Of all the Kokeshi produced by Masao Watanabe, his doll entitled, Mushin, (Innocence), is most representative of this artist’s work. The emphasis is on the color of the natural wood and texture, and the form of this piece is the most recognizable of all of his dolls. The representation of clothing, complemented by the natural graining of the wood, and the painting of the sash, is common for this particular series. The natural wood implies the kimono or yukata with It’s smooth curves brought about through the use of the lathe. Some painted and raised forms resemble Shibori, a type of tie-dyeing which give texture to the garment. He also prominently features the rose and camellia as a central motif. His most famous piece above, is entitled, ‘Chigo Zakura’, (Cherry Blossom Child), which won the Prime Minister’s Award, and was presented to the Beatles in 1965, after their appearance in Japan with Sir Joseph Lockwood, Chairman of EMI Record Distributors, England.