HAMBURG.- The Museum is showing for the first time a selection of some 70 basketry works made of bamboo dating from the 1880s and 1890s, and has the hope that this will help to recall this almost forgotten Japanese art form which was only recently rediscovered in the USA and Japan.
About 50 of the 170 basket-weave works in Hamburg, which were originally purchased by the Museums founding director, Justus Brinckmann, are signed by the artist, a custom which was only introduced in the last third of the 19th century by the kagoshi, a new type of Japanese basket-weaving masters. The kagoshi staked their claim in this way for the first time for their work to be considered an art form.
The majority of the signed baskets in the Hamburg collection are by Hayakawa Shôkosai I. (1815-1897). The prize winning master of basket weaving was the leading kagoshi of the first generation. His speciality are complex techniques, highly sophisticated designs and consummate and precise workmanship down to the smallest details. The Hamburg Museum has in its possession the largest surviving collection of this early master from Osaka.
The marvellously intricate baskets are not objects of everyday use. They were mainly intended for flower arrangements (ikebana), for charcoal or fruits and were used in the tea-rooms during the tea ceremony. They also had a place of honour in the studies of Japanese scholars.