Kondo Yuzo was a famed Japanese potter who was famous for his work in underglaze cobalt blue (sometsuke). Following his graduation from the Kyoto School of Arts, he worked as an assistant for Tomimoto Kenkichi between 1921 to 1924, while employed on the recommendation of Shoji Hamada. For many years he was considered one of the most skillful potters in Kyoto. He was designated a Living National Treasure in 1977 for his work in sometsuke.
As the story goes, Tomimoto eventually took him in hand and told him that unless he could draw, he would never be a great potter. Kondo responded by enrolling in courses specially teaching drawing and haltingly started applying these skills to his pots. The outcome of all his effort was a superb body of work where his dynamic, large scale decoration based on a set number of themes, reinvigorated the notion of just what blue and white decoration could achieve. His skills as a potter still emerge in his work with high-shouldered vases. These forms are instantly recognizable as Kondo’s forms and are as much his hallmark as is their decoration.
Kondo’s themes – pomegranates, mountain ranges, pine, plum, bamboo and thistles reoccur in his work and have maintained their vivacity across time and in use on alternate forms.