Impressed mark of Seifu Yohei III
Seifu Yohei is a family workshop
of several generations of potters and ceramic artists, all working in Kyoto. The first Seifu Yohei was born in 1801, the last known representative is Seifu Yohei V, who died in 1991. All of them were very skilled craftsmen in their fields. However, it is especially
Sofei Yohei III who is best known.
Seifu Yohei I
SSeifu Yohei I was born in 1801 as the son of Yasuda Yahei, assumably a samurai in Kanazawa. He began his training in ceramic
arts in 1815, as an apprentice of Ninnami Dohachi (1783 -1855). After his study Ninnami Dohachi allowed him to build a kiln in the Sanyaso district in Fushimi Momoyama, south of Kyoto, where he mainly produced raku ware. In 1828 he moved his business
to Gojozaka, Kyoto and concentrated on kinrande ware, as well as celadon and blue and white porcelain. In 1847 he was ordered by the Daimyo of Bizen to instruct the artisans at the local kilns the art and production of blue-and-white porcelain and various
types of stoneware. He died in 1861.
Seifu Yohei II
Seifu Yohei II was born in 1845, and studied under the painter Maeda Chodo (1817-78. He succeeded his father after his
death in 1861and became as Seifu Yohei II the head of the family business. Seifu Yohei II called himself Gokei and produced various porcelain wares. As he also was a skilled painter, some of his works incorporate his paintings. Yohei II introduced the low
relief technique on white porcelain wares but became famous for his sometsuke porcelain, what is ceramics with designs painted in cobalt blue on a white ground and with transparent glazes on it before it is fired, producing a vivid shade of blue. At the end
of the Edo period, already from 1858 on Japan started international trade with Western nations, opening up the possibility of international trade for the Kyoto ceramic industry. Seifu Yohei II was one of the first potters in Kyoto who was aware of this chance
for the ceramic industry to produce for the foreign market. In 1873 he became a purveyor to the industrial center of Kyoto prefecture.
Seifu Yohei ll, who was a heavy drinker, died already in 1878, at a young age of 33 years. Since he had no son, it
was his intention that his nephew Baikei, the son of his sister and her husband, the talented potter Okada Heikichi should succeed him. But at the time Yohei II became very ill, Baikei was only eight years old. Knowing that he would die he asked asked Baikeis
father Okada to be Seifu Yohei III.
Seifū Yohei III
Seifu Yohei III was born in 1851 Harima, now Hyogo Prefecture. His real name was Okada Heikichi. He was the second son of
the painter Okada Ryōhei and studied ceramic art with Tanomura Chokunyū (1814-1907) in Osaka. In 1866,when he was 15 years old, Okada Heikichi started his career as a apprentice at Seifu Yohei II workshop. In 1871 he was accomplished and was allowed to call
himself an independent ceramic artist. Heikichi married Seifu Kuma, a younger sister of Yohei II in 1872. From that time he called himself Shinka Seizan. After the death of Seifu Yohei II in 1878, he took over the family business and became Seifu Yohei III.
Seifu Yohei III became famous for his beautiful celadon products, and for ivory-white wares with delicate carvings, covered with a transparent, slightly pink tinted glaze and overglaze polychrome decorations. He also devoted himself to the development of new
types of clay and glazes, and studied and wrote about Chinese porcelain techniques.In contrast to many other artists of his time Seifu Yohei III work was not especially made for export but designed according to Japanese taste and also sold and admired within
Japan. Seifu Yohei III was a very celebrated artist. He won numerous prizes including the itto myogi shohai (first prize for technical excellence) at the third National Industrial Exposition in 1890, and was represented with three pieces at the Chicago World
Fair in 1893. Seifū Yohei III became the first ceramicist to be awarded the prestigious title of Imperial Household Artist in 1893 and received another Imperial distinction in 1895, the Green Ribbon. Although in the west Miyagawa Kozan is generally considered
to be the best ceramic artist of his time, in Japan however this honour is attributed to Seifu Yohei III.
Seifu Yohei died in 1914 at the age of 63 and was succeeded by his son Baikei
Seifu Yohei IV was born in 1871 as the second son of Seifu Yohei III. He was brought up in the Kiyomizu-Gojo district and being the son of famous Seifu Yohei III, he had a promising future. He was intended to succeed Seifu Yohei II,
who had no children of his own and it was Seifu Yohei II who gave him the artist-name Baikei. Since Baikei was only 8 years old when Seifu Yohei II passed away, he became the fourth generation although as a grandson of the first Seifu Yohei he actually is
the third generation in the familyline.
Seifu Yohei IV (he also called himself Seizan) received his training from his father and studied literati-style painting under Tanomura Shosai (1845 - 1909 ), in Osaka for three years. He became Seifu Yohei IV in
1914 when he was 42 years old but already in the years before he played an important role in the Seifu workshop. A number of works attributed to Seifu Yohei III were probably completed by Yohei IV and he used the seal of Yohei III for five years after his
succession. Seifu Yohei III left him a fortune but also the distinctive styles and modern technical foundations for ceramic production in his kiln. Although Seifu Yohei IV was a very skillful ceramic artist, it must be said that the true innovations in design,
glazes and technic was inherited from his father. Seifu Yohei IV died in 1951.
Seifu Yohei V
Seifu Yohei V was born in 1921. Although he did a lot of work independently, he
is best known for his collaboration with Tsukinowa Yusen (1908-1998) in the 1970s. Both were painters and potters, but in this co-operation Yuzen supplied the pots that were painted by Seifu Yohei V. Yohei did not always sign this work, but because of his
style it is always recognizable. His work is characterized by busy paintings, in which open spaces were often filled with calligraphed poetry. Seifu Yohei V died in 1991. We do not know if a sixth generation is still working after the death of Seifu Yohei