Kokusai the Genius and Stag-antler Carving in Japan
Hardback, 292 x 216 mm, 3 Vol. 220, 440 and 472 pages
By Paul Moss
The first comprehensive publication on the prodigious and extraordinary Japanese netsuke carver Kokusai (1835–1894). A milestone in netsuke scholarship: 258 generously illustrated entries make this the largest single assemblage of Kokusai’s work, which, combined with information on the artist’s colourful life, provide a fascinating insight into 19th-century Japan.
Kokusai lived in a time of immense social, cultural and artistic change, and his work – and indeed his own person – captures its contradictions. The Edo period was ending, the last breath of feudal Japan, and the Meiji Restoration launched the new nation into a dramatic, Westernized and industrialized modernity. Kokusai was a radical interpreter of this world, holding up a mirror to the rich culture vanishing before his eyes. A modernist who yet stubbornly adhered to ancient, simple values, he carved humble, personal truths into the most intractable of materials while simultaneously enjoying a life of wild excess and lavish beauty.
This beautifully illustrated set of three volumes – titled Precursors, Kokusai and Followers – includes catalogue entries for 608 objects as well as a number of sub-entries. Also included are essays on Kokusai’s life, carving techniques, materials and followers — the latter of which demonstrates his extraordinary and lasting influence. Most objects are illustrated at size and are augmented by additional and rich detail photography. Many of the larger objects, such as staffs and sceptres, are illustrated with luxurious fold-out pages.
Paul Moss is director of Sydney L. Moss, a prestigious London gallery specializing in Chinese and Japanese art. Kokusai’s remarkable skill and colourful life has captivated three generations of the Moss family but none more than Paul, who for decades has been Kokusai’s greatest champion.