JAPANESE BAMBOO BASKETS
Suisen no Hana (Narcissus Flower) by Iizuka Rokansai
Iizuka Rokansai / 飯塚琅玕斎
Suisen no Hana, (Narcissus Flower)
Dated Taisho 14/15 (1924-25)
30.5 x 19 x 19 cm
11.8 x 7.5 x 7.5 in
Original box signed and sealed by Rokansai
Original lacquered water container
This basket appears to be one of a pair of baskets that are together the earliest known dated works of Iizuka Rokansai. The inscription on the box indicates that this basket was made Taisho year of the snake/cow, or Taisho 14/15. Since the basket's title is Narcissus Flower, which in Japan flowers in the middle of winter, we can understand that it was made in those winter months at the turn of 1924 to 1925.
This basket's partner is found in the NAEF Collection. Appearing as Plate 207 in Baskets: Masterpieces of Japanese Bamboo Art 1850-2015 (A+C VWG, nd) the basket titled Lotus Seed (Hasu no Mi) is signed on bottom by Rokansai and dated Summer 1924.
These two baskets, made six months apart, one in summer and the other in winter, call the attention of any Rokansai enthusiast. Aside from works created for special exhibitions later in life, Rokansai rarely dated his works, and he rarely, if ever, made two works so nearly identical. About five additional baskets with similar (approximate) dates appear in Iizuka Rokansai: Master of Modern Bamboo Crafts (Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts, 1989). Rokansai would have then been in his early thirties and still likely making baskets under the name of his elder brother Hosai II (1872-1934). It is therefore interesting to note that first works attributed directly to him are relatively familiar mingei-inspired works, rather than the inspired individual pieces he would soon create.
These two baskets, Lotus Seed and Narcissus Flower, summer and winter, stand slightly apart from others in this early period, however. Their poetic titles, understated form, and surprising flexibility in the hand draw us in. And in fact, looking closely at this basket one finds that it is made not of single lengths of madake as appears at first, but instead of layers of lengths, split and then stacked in their original order.