Kitaoji Rosanjin (1883-1959) was one of Japan's most important 20th century ceramists. A largely self-taught artist known for his eccentric and cantankerous personality, Rosanjin was famous as a fine cook as well as a potter. He was married five times. Born in 1883 in the village of Kamigano north of Kyoto, Rosanjin achieved youthful success as a calligrapher, and earned his early living through calligraphy, the carving of seals and shop signs, and antique dealing. In 1921 he founded the Bishoku Club (Gourmet's Club), which became a private restaurant, and in 1925 Rosanjin opened the well-known Hoshigaoka Restaurant in Tokyo.
Rosanjin began working in clay in order to produce ceramics for his restaurant after the 1923 Tokyo earthquake destroyed its collection of antique wares, and he soon began to exhibit his own ceramic works. Rosanjin also became a scholar of ancient Japanese ceramics, publishing his research during the 1930s. Many important exhibitions of his ceramics were held during the 1950s, including a 1954 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Rosanjin resided in a compound of traditional buildings with six kilns in Kita Kamakura; and here in 1952 Isamu Noguchi created ceramic sculpture and lived with his wife, film star Yamaguchi Yoshiko (Shirley). To the end of his life Rosanjin refused to be designated a Living National Treasure.
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