Yabu Meizan (Japanese: 藪 明山, birth name Yabu Masashichi (藪 政七), January 20, 1853 – 1934) was a Japanese artist and workshop owner known for painting on porcelain. His studio produced high-end Satsuma ware, primarily for the export market. That term was originally coined for artistic painted porcelain from the Satsuma Province. Eventually it expanded to include low-quality porcelain that was mass-produced for export, whereas Meizan was one of the artists who continued the tradition of high artistic quality while also successfully exporting. He is regarded as the “prince” of this medium and today his works are sought after by collectors.
Yabu Meizan was born on January 20, 1853 in Nagahori, Osaka. In 1880 he opened his workshop in Osaka, employing and training artists. Wares were brought from the kiln of Chin Jukan in Satsuma Province to Osaka to be decorated. The American art museum founder Charles Parsons recounts a visit to Meizan’s workshop in his book Notes of a Trip around the World in 1894 and 1895.
“He is very celebrated. He had 17 men and boys at work, all decorating. He makes the designs and watches them carefully in executing the work. Some are very wonderful workers. All is order, neatness and silence, no words spoken.”
Meizan actively marketed his work internationally as well as domestically, taking an active role in organising the presentation of Japanese wares at world’s fairs. This led to acclaim as well as sales. His success inspired another workshop to use his name and imitate his style, without matching his subtlety or detail. His career declined during World War I as the war and economic turmoil made it difficult to run an export business. Japanese art was also falling out of favour with American and European buyers, who gradually turned to China.