Vintage Sosaku Kokeshi entitled: “Mujitsu no kodomo | Innocent Child” by Watanabe, Masao
Offered is a wonderful doll in the image of a young boy showing hair falling over their foreheads, side hair fringes, big questioning eyes, or faces looking downward. The boy is wearing a jack, (Haori), in which the doll emphasis on different woods. Most likely because of the Japanese interest in not wasting anything. Throughout Japanese history, any scraps of material were initially used to make Kokeshi. This is known as ‘Mottainai’, meaning to not waste. This treatment conveys a feeling of awe and appreciation for any material that has the potential for creating something else. The doll has Watanabe-san’s inscription and stamp identifying the piece and maker.
From an interview with Watanabe-san, children facing the after-effects of war greatly left a mark on his heart, which may have been the basis for emphasis on children-inspired Kokeshi. During the War with Japan, and with the internment of the American Japanese in the United States he stated that one-half of the population affected were children, many of which were separated from their parents. The traditional structure of the Japanese family, both in Japan and in the United States, depended on its close bonds and respect for elders. This was undermined by the war, with young children suffering greatly.
Condition: Excellent meaning that the piece retains its original craft/workmanship showing a wonderful-developed patina commensurate which suggests a degree of wear which corresponds to vintage Folk Craft. It meets all the standards of the collectible Sosaku Kokeshi.
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Masao Watanabe | 1917-2007 (89)
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. His most famous Kokeshi themes are that of ‘innocence’ (Mushin), and his doll entitled: Chigo Zakura (Cherry Blossom Child). A multiple award winner in Kokeshi competitions around the world (Prime Minister's prizes for the works of "Chigozskura" in 1963 and "Shojo" in 1981), along with numerous prizes by the Modern Kokeshi Artist Association and JETRO. He held two exhibitions in Japan and was exempt from the examination of the All Japan Kokeshi Contest, a Member of the Nippon Kokeshi Artistic Handicraft Association. 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 the 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 Its smooth curves brought about through the use of the lathe. Some painted and raised forms to resemble Shibori, a type of tie-dyeing that 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.