Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Fine Arts


Art and Visual Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Andrew Maske


The use and firing of clay to make art instead of vessels was a revolutionary concept in Japan when it first was introduced by Hayashi Yasuo in 1948 with Cloud, and expanded upon by Yagi Kazuo in 1954 with Mr. Samsa’s Walk. Although both avant-garde artists were major forces in the advancement of abstract, nonfunctional ceramics, Yagi is usually given sole credit and occupies a prominent place in the literature, while Hayashi’s name can scarcely be found, despite his numerous international awards, large body of work and career spanning seven decades. This thesis seeks to identify the factors that influenced the direction of their careers and the unbalanced reception of their work. It compares their backgrounds, personality traits, avant-garde affiliations, and positions on art and ceramics, in relation to the norms and prerequisites for success in Kyoto’s deeply stratified, convention-bound ceramic community. The pervasive practice of rating and society’s emphasis on affiliation and rank were significant forces in this situation, as were issues that divided Japan’s art world -- the separation and unequal ranking of fine art and traditional craft, or the value of individual expression versus technique and tradition. Ultimately, this study reveals an insular world during a decade (1946–56) of crisis and transition that is rarely studied in the West from the perspective of ceramic art.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)