- Sohrab Sepehri
- Untitled (From the Tree Trunk Series)
- signed and dated Sepehri '72
- oil on canvas
- 97 by 126cm.; 38 1/8 by 49 1/2 in.
Private Collection, Tehran
Private Collection, London (acquired directly from the above in 1982)
Sale: Christie's Dubai, Modern and Contemporary Arab, Iranian and Turkish Art; Part I, 23 October 2012, lot 9
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2012
A reclusive, humble, solitary figure, Sepehri rarely gave interviews; it was as if he only spoke through his extensive body of poetic and artistic works. He was known for his passionate love of nature, especially of the desert around his native Kashan. His work is a testament to a repeated desire to return to the solace of his homeland's colours and inspiration. The Zen-like ambiance of his Tree series, while undoubtedly influenced by what he had seen and learned in Japan, relate to the same spirituality and meditativeness of the desert. As a child he was known to love birds, animals, flowers, nature, outdoors - all the themes he brings into his paintings, as though with repetition he gives them life. He never painted people but to him humanity is a part of nature, not separate from it. His compositions, deceptively simple and effortless, are the result of a highly sophisticated selective eye which had become adept at reducing any depiction to its most essential elements. At work, he was often known to squint while painting, as if to blur and reduce his field of vision. The clarity and translucence of some of his gouaches, or the dilution of an overlaying coat of paint, are all techniques which require great skill and experience.
His technique often involved rapid brushstrokes on a wet canvas, using earth-tone colours - the colours of his beloved desert - burnt ochre, shades of brown, grey, yellow, interspersed with a sudden dash of bright red or other primary colour in contrast. His 'negative spaces' stem from the same Zen-like meditation on canvas; using the whole canvas as an unlimited space which he could exceed, what he did not include was as significant as what is present. This is especially true in the Tree Series, where the rhythm of the trees and their reference to a thick forest beyond the canvas is highly effective next to the silence of an empty foreground. Simplicity of composition and reduction of detail to its most meaningful denominator can only be achieved by a master. These are characteristics of Sepehri's work at its best - an artist who persisted at his craft, and whose phases of output left us with some enduring masterpieces, now rivalling Western modern masters in terms of value on the international art market.
Profoundly influenced by Oriental philosophies, Sepehri combined a spiritual inclination with a strong understanding of Persian art and culture. He treated natural phenomena and the wonder of everyday nature such as tree trunks, with awe and enchantment. Sotheby's is proud to present an iconic work by this exceptional artist from his Tree Series, 1972 in which he uses a rare green, brown and grey palette with a strong compositional structure. Drawing the eye from the corner where his painting starts, across to the middle of the canvas, the artist creates a sense of openness by balancing a group of trunks without any empty space to imbue an effect of peacefulness. Rich in detail, sharp in its execution, lofty and beautifully textured, this particular work which has been in prestigious collections since its creation is a one of a kind work by the artist.