In Praise of Meiji Netsuke

Posted by Michael Bernstein on

The Neglected Period Netsuke of the Meiji period (1868-1912) have suffered the same rebuff that Meiji art in general has. The very number of Meiji netsuke combined with an elitist prejudice that "older is better" has engendered a certain contemptuousness for these later works. Purists extol the power and simplicity of Edo period (1603-1868) netsuke and have pushed these pieces, particularly Kyoto School netsuke, to staggering record prices. One who looks at the works of the Soken Kisho carvers, the Iwami carvers, the Toyomasas, the Masanaos of Ise-Yamada, Mitsuhiro, Otoman, Kagetoshi, Hidemasa, or Rantei must be impressed with the virtuosity of design and craftsmanship of these Edo geniuses. Furthermore, Bernard Hurtig has made collectors aware of the formerly neglected brilliance of the strong eighteenth century sculptural netsuke, while Raymond Bushell's superb The Art of the Netsuke Carver has heightened collectors' appreciation of contemporary carvers. There is no doubt that the Edo period netsuke deserve all the popularity, critical acclaim, and financial success they have received. However, the fact that there are extraordinary Edo netsuke does not exclude there being equally marvelous Meiji netsuke. Proceed Cautiously The collector of Meiji netsuke travels in perilous waters-waters best navigated with the expert aid...

Read more →