Amita Co. artists: Minai, Torahiko Kanamori, Takeshi

Yotsuya Masami [四谷正美 / 四谷正義] (1876 ~ 1941)

Yotsuya Masami

Yotsuya Masami was born on January 5, 1876, in Seto (瀬戸), Okayama Prefecture (岡山縣), under the name of Gozan (五山). Masami studied at the metal engraving department (校彫金) of the Tokyo Fine Arts School (東京美術學). When he was a student, he shut himself up in a Nakamurakan (中村館) lodging house in Tatsuoka-cho (龍岡町), Hongo (本郷) together with Hishida Shunso (菱田春草), Amakusa Shinrai (天草神來), Shimomura Kanzan (下村観山), Yokoyama Taikan (横山大觀) and others, and worked hard, demonstrating the perseverance of an art student at that time. Masami studied painting under Kawabata Gyokusho (川端玉章), drawing under Mizuno Ume (水野踈梅) and poetry under Matsumura Koto (松村琴臾), while the field of metal engraving techniques rapidly advanced. Consequently, he came to see the work of Kano Natsuo (加納夏雄), a famous Japanese engraver, who was a professor at the Tokyo Arts School at the time. Masami learned how rapidly Japanese metal engraving has developed from the ancient times and how it was used to decorate swords and accessories, such as cigarette cases.
In 1899 Masami graduated from the Tokyo Fine Arts School and opened his own workshop. Since 1916 Masami was employed by the Ministry of the Imperial Household (宮内省) and has been favored with Imperial orders on innumerable occasions.
In 1925, by the request of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (商工省) and Tokyo Prefecture (東京府), he traveled abroad and participated at the Paris International Crafts Exposition (巴里萬國工藝博覧會), winning the Rare Work Contest Award (れヲールコンクール賞). He also served as a judge for the Imperial Art Academy Art Exhibition (帝國美術院美術展覺會) in 1934, as an advisor to the Japan Metal Engraving Association (日本彫金會), as a member of the Japan Art Association (日本美術協會), as a judge of the Sanraku Book Association (三樂書逍會), and more.

Two pairs of Imperial Presentation inlaid silver vases by Yotsuya Masami.

Masami had never been paid a monthly salary since graduating from the Tokyo University of the Arts. With his talent, skills and elegant taste he was a rare artist who was able to financially support himself during his life.
Influenced by the works of Unno Shomin (海野勝珉), Yotsuya Masami is especially known by his katagiri carving (片切彫), also being highly regarded by another master craftsman in this technique, Natsuo Kano (加納夏雄). Being passionate about poetry, Masami's works are often accompanied by carved short passages from Chinese poems.

A cigarette case by Yotsuya Masami with a Chinese poetry passage on the backside.

Since 1938 Masami has been ill. His daughter, Yaeko (八重子) was at his bedside, nursing him. She took photographs of his works that he made over the years and compiled a book, that was published in 1940. Most of the works made before 1923 were destroyed by fire caused by the Great Kanto Earthquake, but many of the works produced by Masami after 1923 appear in the book. Masami's old friends, metal craftsman and poet Katori Hotsuma (香取秀眞, 1874~1954) and painter Shuno Noguchi (野口駿尾, 1881~1946), wrote the introduction to the book.
Yotsuya Masami passed away on May 20, 1941, from diabetes complications. He was 65 years old.

Examples (from the web)