This pair of ornamental vases shows the interplay between natural motifs and abstraction that characterizes art nouveau. Kawade Shibataro encountered a range of trends and techniques on his international tours representing Japan in enamelwork at world expositions in Europe and the United States, beginning with the 1885 exposition in Nuremberg, where he earned a silver medal. He also medalled at the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, in 1893, won the bronze at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis, in 1904, and participated in the Universal and International Exposition, Liège, in 1905. Kawade also entered domestic art and industry exhibitions in Japan.
Kawade is credited with remarkable innovations in the field of enamelwork, among them the technique of repoussé, plique à jour, drip glaze (nagare-gusuri), which replicates the effect of flambé and ash ceramic glazes, and relief decoration (moriage), borrowed from Japanese painting. He began in the 1880s and 90s as a subcontractor for the Ando Company out of his own workshop in Nagoya. After participating in the Exposition Universelle, Paris, in 1900 he headed the Ando factory from 1902 to 1910, when he ceased work in art enameling to devote himself for unknown duration to the development of commercial glazes.
The Paris exhibition was a unique window into the cross-fertilization of modern art accomplished through the international fairs, astonishing Japanese artists with the embrace of Japanese design by their Western counterparts and vice versa. For a 1905 variant of the peacock vases here by Hayashi Tanigoro, see Fredric T. Schneider, The Art of Japanese Cloisonné Enamel: History, Techniques and Artists, 1600 to the Present (Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland & Company, 2010), pl. C-8, fig. 30.
Another vase with matching peacock decoration is in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, accessible online at http://lacma.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/new-acquisitions-week-more-than-2 00-works-just-added