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  • Place of origin:

    Kyoto (made)

  • Date:

    1958-1959 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Yagi, Kazuo (Mr), born 1918 - died 1979 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hand-built, unglazed stoneware

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with the support of the Friends of the V&A, the Art Fund and the Ades family, in memory of Mrs Stella Ades

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This very important work by Yagi Kazuo, twentieth-century Japan's most celebrated avant-garde ceramic artist, was made during the seminal period when he and fellow members of the Sodeisha, the 'Crawling through Mud Association', embarked on a compelling and hugely significant exploration of abstract, sculptural ceramics.

The early years of the Sodeisha saw its members deconstruct the vessel form through a series of experiments that shocked critics and ceramics aficionados alike. The critical turning point in the decision as to whether and when 'to close the mouth of the vessel' came in 1954, when Yagi exhibited his famous 'Mr Samsa's Walk', an abstract, non-functional circular assemblage of irregular pipe-like components.

Like its 1954 predecessor, the V&A's work is made from Shigaraki clay, which turns a rich orange colour when fired in a wood-burning kiln. It is unglazed, Yagi's intention having been to present the form in a state of uncompromised purity.

Yagi's reputation as Japan's leading ceramic sculptor was secured in the late 1950s and early 1960s through exhibitions in Japan, Europe and the USA. A work in a similar vein to the V&A's piece was exhibited at, and purchased by, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1966. There are no other works of a comparable kind in the UK, nor anywhere else in Europe.

Physical description

Upright form suggestive variously of a head enclosed in a deep void, an embrace, a mouth and a tongue. The most distinctive feature is a sharp point that juts vertically downwards at the front.

Place of Origin

Kyoto (made)


1958-1959 (made)


Yagi, Kazuo (Mr), born 1918 - died 1979 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Hand-built, unglazed stoneware

Marks and inscriptions

Maker's mark
Impressed on lower part of back


Height: 45 cm, Width: 19 cm, Depth: 21 cm

Descriptive line

Sculpture, untitled, unglazed stoneware, by YAGI Kazuo (1918-1979), Kyoto, 1958-1959.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto et al. (ed.). Yagi Kazuo - A Retrospective. (exhibition catalogue). Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Shimbun, 2004, p.65, plate 33.




Studio Pottery; Stoneware


East Asia Collection

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