Elegance in Iron: The Art of the Japanese Tetsubin

September 29 – December 6, 2009

In 18th century Kyoto, literary men with an interest in Chinese learning rebelled against the formalized manner of the Japanese tea ceremony and took up the Chinese habit of drinking steeped tea. By century’s end, this act of defiance had led to the development of the tetsubin, the Japanese cast-iron teakettle. This exhibition draws from the outstanding collection of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Kramer and features more than 90 tetsubin from the 19th and early 20th centuries, when the affluence of the urban merchant class, which had begun to enjoy steeped tea as well, supported the cost of producing tetsubin with raised decoration and inlays of precious metals. Elegance in Iron showcases the variety in shape and surface decoration of Kyoto tetsubin while also featuring kettles of northern Japan’s Nambu region, where a folk tradition, little affected by Kyoto culture, fostered a dynamic aesthetic in iron tea kettles that complemented the region’s robust lifestyle.

Exhibition of Elegance in Iron is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation and the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation.