Living National Treasure — Masumura Mashiki: The Techniques & Beauty of Lacquer
27 September (Wed) to 24 December (Sun), 2000
Masumura Mashiki (1910–96) is a lacquer craftsman who in 1978 was recognized as an “Important Intangible Cultural Property” (“living national treasure”) for his contributions to Japanese lacquering (kyushitsu) technique.
Masumura began his career by learning the fundamentals of lacquer craft at Kumamoto Municipal Vocational School, continued his studies in Nara and Tokyo, and by 1937 had become independent, showing his works in the governmental exhibitions and other prestigious exhibitions. After the war he parted ways with the Nitten (Japan Fine Arts Exhibition), centering most of his activity around the world of Japanese applied arts and throughout the mid- to late-twentieth century serving as a foremost representative of Japanese lacquer craft. He participated in the Shiseido-sponsored Exhibition of Modern Industrial Arts, which stood with the Japan Traditional Craft Exhibition as a venue of major importance for presenting such works, submitting works from the very first exhibition and then every year during the event's twenty year run.
Masumura's lacquered wares are distinguished by his harmonized use of dry lacquer to create a base combined with an excellence of finishing technique to create a unique plastic beauty. He contributed numerous innovations to dry lacquer, creating a method that resulted in lightweight, solidly durable, highly plastic wares with a kind of beauty that had never been seen before. These efforts and the resulting wares remain highly influential on those who followed in his footsteps.
This exhibition featured mainly works that Masumura had shown at the Exhibition of Modern Industrial Arts between 1975 and 1995, as well as artifacts from his studio including samples showing the dry lacquer process, the molds used for some of the works on display, and some of the tools he used, introducing some of the techniques and beauty of his craft.