Lot 1008
  • 1008

Teshigahara Sofu

300,000 - 500,000 HKD
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  • Teshigahara Sofu
  • Setsugetsu ka - Snow Moon Flower (hexaptych folding screens)
  • ink on paper mounted on wooden panel
marked with artist's seal; titled in Japanese and dated 1970 on a label affixed to the reverse, framed


Private European Collection
Christie's, Amsterdam, 12 June 2001, lot 57
Acquired by the present owner from the above sale

Catalogue Note

“Picasso of Flowers”: The Ikebana Dimension
Teshigahara Sōfu

The recent sculpture of the master Teshigahara Sōfu has served as a major step in establishing a new aesthetic […]. Until a new order is born, “adjacency” is the most abstract concept we have. The term “composition”, which now enjoys currency in aesthetics and art criticism, is too classical, and I am even of the opinion that it should be replaced with “arrangement […]”– Michel Tapié1

Rule 49 of the Sōgetsu school of modern flower arrangement, founded by Ikebana master and artist Teshigahara Sōfu, states the core underlying tenets of Teshigahara’s philosophy of art: “The four principles of freshness, motion, balance and harmony. The three elements of line, color and mass.” Extrapolating from flower arrangement to sculpture, painting and avant-garde calligraphy works, Teshigahara began creating diverse forms of art using forms partly modeled by nature. He first exhibited as a sculptor at Tokyo’s Bridgestone Museum in 1957, subsequently gaining acclaim in the West through French critic-curator Michel Tapié, the organizer of Teshigahara’s first European solo exhibition at Galerie Stadler in Paris in 1959. In personal notes written during his first trip to Japan in 1957, Tapié raves: “Upon meeting [Teshigahara] for the first time, I sensed that I was before one of those exceptional creative talents who could present his work to the world. That kind of creativity is rare. After Picasso, I have been overawed by such presence only before the work of Pollock.”2

The current lot, Setsugetsu ka - Snow Moon Flower (1970) (Lot 1008), is a breathtaking example of Teshigahara’s innovative and multidimensional oeuvre, amongst those considered for the artist’s defining solo exhibition at the Palais Galliera in 1971. Executed on a six-paneled folding screen, Teshigahara’s immense brushstrokes hover transcendently above the pictorial surface, its black ink shimmering and iridescent on the brink of a separate dimension. The three kanji characters are virtuosic and commanding, with forms and lines inspired by the dynamism of nature and a lyrical, interacting enfoldment informed by his mastery of topological adjacency. Simultaneously calligraphic, gestural and sculptural, reminiscent of traditional Chinese landscape as well as calligraphy, the monumentally exquisite piece is archetypal of Teshigahara’s unique Ikebana-inspired oeuvre. Dubbed “Picasso of flowers” by TIME Magazine, Teshigahara was awarded the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government in 1960 and the Legion of Honor in 1961.

According to Oshima Seiji, Director of the Setagaya Art Museum, Teshigahara was “gifted with the power of discerning artistic elements immanent in every detail of our life”.3 Apart from his own artistic career, Teshigahara demonstrated a passion for contemporary music and other art forms, founding the Sōgetsu Art Center in 1958 along with his son Teshigahara Hiroshi. Operating from 1959 to 1971, the Sōgetsu Art Center was the singularly most important platform for international intellectual and cultural exchange in post war Japan, operating an ambitious program that invited and collaborated with international figures such as Georges Mathieu, Sam Francis, Mark Tobey, Olivier Messiaen and John Cage. Commissioning a large volume of works, Teshigahara acted as a patron to young artists from both Japan and abroad, supporting the careers of artists such as Imaï Toshimitsu, Mathieu and Francis, amongst others. The friendship between Teshigahara and American artist and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi was also widely documented, and the latter created a beautiful sky garden for Teshigahara’s Sōgetsu Kaikan. Teshigahara’s legacy, encompassing both his own art and the direct influence of others, is thus a hagiography like that of no other 20th century visual artist in Japan.

1 Michel Tapié, in “A Mental Reckoning of My First Trip to Japan (1957)”, in From Postwar to Postmodern: Art in Japan 1945-1989, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2012, p. 99-100

2 Refer to 1

3 Thomas Havens, Radicals and Realists in the Japanese Nonverbal Arts: The Avant-garde Rejection of Modernism, University of Hawaii Press, 2006, p. 105