Discover our beautiful collection of works by one of Japan's most influential artists.
Miyagawa (Makuzu) Kōzan 宮川(真葛)香山 was one of the most distinguished potters working in Japan during the Meiji era (1868-1912).
He produced a wide range of ceramics for both Japanese and international markets, combining novel Western designs and techniques with traditional Eastern ones. Kōzan's innovative and technically brilliant ceramics won him many prizes at exhibitions at home and abroad.
Born into a family of traditional tea ware makers in 1842, Kōzan moved to Yokohama in the 1860s. There he set up a workshop producing Satsuma-style ceramics for a growing Western market. His workshop was large and progressive, quickly developing and producing a wide variety of styles as fashions changed.
Some of his early wares featured exaggerated, high-relief decoration and these became very popular with the Western market in the 1870s. Known as saikumono, or ‘handiwork objects', this showy and colourful type of ware was generally less well-received by the domestic Japanese market who preferred the more conservative ceramics of the period. A shift in the market required Kōzan to adapt his style to produce wares in a more Chinese taste and in the 1880s, Kōzan began to experiment with Chinese monochrome glazes.
There were two events during Kōzan's career which helped to secure his position as one of the most influential potters of his time. Firstly, Kōzan was one of the first to seek the advice of Gottfried Wagener, an exceptional scientist, with whom he developed new underglaze colours for porcelain, such as pink and green. Secondly, the innovative approach of his adopted son Hanzan, to whom he handed over the running of the workshop in the 1880s, meant they continued to develop and change their style with great success.
When Kōzan died in 1916, Hanzan took the name Kōzan II, and began to work with stoneware as well as porcelain. His grandfather, Chōzō, who started the Makuzu line in 1851, made wares for the Japanese tea ceremony, characterised by irregular shapes and traditional Japanese designs. These continued to be produced alongside the other styles, which catered for European and American tastes.
The Ashmolean collection illustrates the wide range of styles in Kōzan's work over time as well as the consistently high standards of quality. His ability to modify his style to respond to changing markets is evident from looking at a chronology of his work.