Toshiko Takaezu: Closed Forms

September 13, 2012

2009-80 2009-88 2009-89
Pink Lady #1, 1989
Toshiko Takaezu (1922?2011)
Stoneware, 16 x 9 x 9 inches
Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Toshiko Takaezu,
Untitled (Moon Pot), 2006
Toshiko Takaezu (1922?2011)
Stoneware, 22 x 22 x 22 inches
Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Toshiko Takaezu, 2009
Untitled, c. 1997
Toshiko Takaezu (1922?2011)
Stoneware, 28 ? x 11 x 11 inches
Delaware Art Museum, Gift of Toshiko Takaezu, 2009


An innovator in the field of contemporary ceramics, Toshiko Takaezu (1922–2011) was born in Hawaii in 1922. She left the island in 1951 to study ceramics and weaving at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan—a school well known for its strong programs in the arts and crafts tradition. Takaezu was greatly influenced by Japanese artistic traditions. Following her studies, the artist spent close to a year in Japan in the mid-1950s—traveling, studying Zen Buddhism and tea ceremonies, and visiting prominent Japanese potters. Celebrated for her impact on the field as an artist and mentor, Takaezu spent eight years as head of the ceramics department at Cleveland Institute of Art prior to accepting a post in 1967 at Princeton University, where she would influence generations of students before retiring in 1992.

Though known primarily for her ceramic forms, Takaezu worked in a variety of media including weaving, painting, and bronze sculpture. The artist began creating non-functional closed forms in 1958. Created by hand-throwing on the wheel or constructed using molds, these stoneware or porcelain ceramics are objects upon which the artist brushed, sprayed, poured, or dripped glazes in a way many scholars have compared to the action painting of first generation Abstract Expressionist painters like Jackson Pollock, one of the Takaezu’s contemporaries. Gestural applications of color were important to the artist and her palette of reds, blues, blacks, and umber remained consistent throughout her ceramic work as well as her painting and weaving. Takaezu emphasized the concealed space by often leaving a small bit of clay or written messages inside the pot highlighting the mystery of these closed forms.

The inclusion of Toshiko Takaezu’s work in the exhibition, Contemporary American Craftsmen, first brought her to the Museum in 1965—the same year one of her ceramics first entered the Museum’s permanent collection. This initial support prompted the artist offer a generous gift to the Museum in 2009—12 of her signature closed forms. You can find them currently on view in Gallery 17, the Museum’s contemporary art gallery.

Margaret Winslow
Assistant Curator, Contemporary Art

This Curator Corner was posted on September 13, 2012.

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