From the time he was a young boy Tanabe Toshio (1910-2000), later Chikuunsai II, was trained in bamboo by his father, the great aesthete and craftsman Tanabe Chikuunsai I. Chikuunsai II was fluent in the forms and techniques of what Iizuka Rokansai later called ‘formal’ basketry inspired by Chinese sensibilities and often used in the sencha (steeped) tea ceremony. He was also adept in the ‘informal’ open weave basketry linked to the irregular, essential materials and forms utilized in the Japanese tea ceremony. But he found greatest freedom of expression and creativity in plaiting delicate strands of assiduously spit bamboo. With these Chikuunsai II created a series of striking baskets based on both familiar and novel forms, such as the rectangle, the gourd and the kokeshi doll.
This elegant hexagonal-based yet nearly cylindrical basket was a classic form for Chkuunsai II; its lightness reminds one of bamboo’s wispy grassiness and the micro-structures of nature. An inscription on the underside of the box lid indicates that it was made at Tekisuikyo, the home and workshop Chikuunsai II established after the war and in which he lived and worked until 1965. Based on its fine coloration and handle, this basket likely dates to the early post-war years.
In this period Chikuunsai II made such baskets with a ‘floating’ bottom, one that extends from the sides rather than resting directly on the hexagonal base, as seen in later works. The floating bottom substantially complicates the structure and pattern of the basket, but is more stable and elegant than a solid base, if also more delicate. This basket shows some minor damage in this most vulnerable part but is otherwise in excellent condition.
The basket is accompanied by its original box, in aged condition, and lacquered water container and stamped cloth, both in excellent condition.