Lot 1036
  • 1036


3,000,000 - 4,000,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Ryuzaburo Umehara
  • Peony
  • signed in English 
  • oil on canvas
  • 65 by 53 cm; 25 ⅝ by 20 ⅞ in. 
executed in 1972


Acquired directly from the artist by the present important private Asian collector

Catalogue Note

Ryuzaburo Umehara’s Colourful Wonderland The Meiji Restoration marked the end of an isolationist policy that closed Japanese culture from the world, and at the start of the new era, Japan embarked on a program of national revival. Such modernisation included not only industrial and technologic change, but also the introduction of Western thought and culture, which would lay the foundation for modern Japanese art. However, modern art was born not of appropriation. It is well known that Japanese woodblock prints inspired French Impressionism in the late nineteenth-century, indicating the two-way interaction of cultural exchange. During this flourishing era, the Japanese art world produced a range of styles, and among the many outstanding artists, Ryuzaburo Umehara would create some of the most eye-catching works.

Ryuzaburo Umehara was born to a family of textile merchants in Kyoto. His surroundings honed his keen sensitivity to beauty and devotion to art. At age 15, he studied under Western-style painter Asai Chū. He later travelled abroad to France, and entered the Académie Julian, where he would find artistic influences, including Impressionist master Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Upon returning to his home country, Umehara promoted avant-garde European ideas but with an emphasis on traditional spirit rooted in the local context. He gradually distanced himself from the academic realist style that had been popular at the time, and instead sought to ignite a spark in Japanese art.

This season, Sotheby’s Hong Kong will present a work by Ryuzaburo Umehara for the first time. Peony (Lot 1036) was painted in 1972 at the prime of the artist’s career. Strokes of a brush loaded with paint showcase Umehara’s talents. The magnificent colours beguile viewers, leading them on a journey through a vivid wonderland. Ryuzaburo Umehara chose the peony, a widespread bloom in China, perhaps because the flower had nostalgic associations harkening back to the artist’s many travels to the country. Peonies also represent wealth and honour. Throughout his extraordinary life, Umehara thrived, much like a peony, never wavering in his dedication to art and conveying his mastery as a painter.

Peony first attracts the eye with its bold use of colour. The key tones are bright and pure, reflecting an impressionistic mastery of light and shadow. Compared with Renoir’s style, Umehara’s work is bolder and his modelling is flatter, reflecting a close connection to Fauvism. Line and colour intermingle in the painting, creating a splendid, almost volcanic effect saturated by the vitality of blooming peonies. Ryuzaburo Umehara engaged with expressionist styles and absorbed the influence of Japanese traditional craft, lifting decorative colour to new heights. The golden accents in the background suggest Kanō School screens, characterized by their colourful paintings on golden backdrops. Here, Umehara added Japanese elements to a work with a Western imprint, skilfully presenting the creative essence of Eastern-Western fusion.


This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Tokyo Art Club