Lot 1
  • 1

Isamu Noguchi

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  • Isamu Noguchi
  • Soliloquy
  • inscribed Isamu Noguchi and numbered 4/8
  • bronze
  • 254 by 33 by 33cm.
  • 100 by 13 by 13in.


Arnold Herstand & Company, New York

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1987


Noguchi & Rickey & Smith (exhibition catalogue), Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, 1970, another cast illustrated p. 8

Nancy Grove & Diane Botnick, The Sculpture of Isamu Noguchi 1924-1979. A Catalogue, New York, 1980, no. 529, another cast illustrated

Richard Buckminster Fuller, Isamu Noguchi: A Sculptor's World, New York, 2004, another cast illustrated fig. 97

Catalogue Note

One of Isamu Noguchi's most compelling and evocative sculptures, the present work is the artist’s abstract interpretation of a soliloquy – the act of speaking one's thoughts aloud when by oneself or regardless of any listeners. It is one of the foremost examples of an important series of sculptures that Noguchi created between 1959 and 1962 that give expression to fundamentally human and frequently melancholic themes. Related works entitled Solitude, Victim, Mortality and The Cry belong to museum collections around the world, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York which acquired the original balsa wood version of The Cry in 1966.

Born in Los Angeles, California, in 1904 to an American mother and a Japanese father, Noguchi travelled extensively in Europe, Asia and Mexico throughout his life and maintained studios in both New York and Japan during his later years. Noguchi originally intended to pursue a medical career and enrolled at Columbia University in New York in 1922. Soon afterwards, however, he began attending evening classes with the sculptor Onorio Ruotolo in the Lower East Side and abandoned his formal studies in favour of becoming a sculptor. In 1926, an exhibition in New York of the work of Constantin Brancusi profoundly changed his artistic direction. He applied for and was granted a Guggenheim Fellowship to study stone and wood cutting in Paris and from 1927 to 1929 he worked alongside Brancusi in his Montparnasse studio. Under Brancusi’s influence, Noguchi’s highly finished work became increasingly abstract and acquired a lyrical expressiveness that is an enduring characteristic of his mature work, including Soliloquy.

Noguchi’s sculpture reveals a uniquely Japanese appreciation for the innate beauty of even the simplest materials. He turned his hand to a wide range of stone, wood and metal, preferring in each instance to utilise the materials that he felt matched the character of the places where he worked. In conceiving each of the sculptures in the present series, Noguchi elected to counterbalance the weighty and emotional states of being he had chosen to depict by using the exceptionally light material of balsa wood which he carved in the raw, often leaving elements loosely connected so that they could vibrate in response to air currents. In this way, the balsa wood offered itself up as a metaphor for the fragility of human life thrown into contrast with the dense and bulky forms that conveyed the burden of human experience. In 1963, Noguchi took the exceptional step of having this series of balsa wood works cast in bronze for an exhibition at the Cordier and Ekstrom Gallery in New York. Bronze was a material that Noguchi had hitherto avoided, but in the case of this series of sculptures he felt that their casting in bronze could lend a symbolic and literal weight. Less whimsical or fragile, Noguchi's transformation of Soliloquy into bronze lends it a timeless and heroic quality.