Kaniya KUNIHARU かにや くにはる

(Japanese, Meiji Era 1868-1912)

Two tigers

Bronze 9.4 x 19.7 in. (25 x 50 cm.)

Signed Kaniya KUNIHARU saku かにや くにはる 作



Exceptional Japanese Meiji bronze sculpture of two tigers (begin 20th century).

The Artist

Kaniya Kuniharu was one of the foremost craftsmen in cast bronze of the Meiji Period. He had been taught by two particularly eminent artists, Takamura Koun (1852-1934) and Otake Norikuni (b.1852). Koun, a master of wood sculpture, had been appointed Professor of sculpture a the founding of the Tokyo Art School in 1889. Kuniharu himself was one of the founding members of the Tokyo Chukin Kai (Tokyo Cast Metal Association) in 1907 together with Oshima Joun (1858-1940). He exhibited at both National and International exhibitions, including the Paris Exposition of 1900; the high quality of this bronze group could very well have been conceived for exhibition in the West.


Compare with the maker's other examples of fine quality bronze pieces illustrated by Joe Earle, “Splendors of Imperial Japan, Arts of the Meiji Period from the Khalili Collection”, pp.370 and 372, nos.263 and 264.

Meiji Era

In the 50 years leading up to the dawn of the 20th century, Japan transformed itself from an isolated feudal nation to a world power. The traditional arts seemed doomed to extinction as the country raced to modernize its industries. However, after the young Emperor Meiji assumed the throne in 1868 and prohibited sword-wearing and disestablished Buddhism swordsmiths, sword decorators and bronze-casters, Japan's new leaders realised that the historic skills of the metalworker, lacquerer, enameller and ceramic artist could play a vital part in the struggle to compete in international markets and to demonstrate the brilliance of Japanese craftsmanship. Japan opened its treasures to the world. Before long, visitors to international exhibitions in Europe and America were confronted with astonishing displays of Japanese artistic creativity and technical virtuosity. They were dazzled, amazed and awed at the sight of ceramics, textiles, and sculpture of such unsurpassed artistry, astonishing intricacy, and a degree of technical perfection never even conceived of in the West. The masterpieces of Meiji art and later on Taisho and Showa art, in a unique style blending the best of traditional design with prevailing international taste, are unrivalled in the quality of their craftsmanship and were avidly sought by Western collectors.  They are still appreciated by connoisseurs.