Fine Japanese Art

Fine Japanese Art

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 122. INOUE YUICHI, HIN (POVERTY), SHOWA PERIOD, 20TH CENTURY.


Auction Closed

November 5, 04:06 PM GMT


50,000 - 70,000 GBP

Lot Details



oil on canvas, the reverse signed Inonue Yuichi and dated 1954 

60 x 46 cm., 23¾ x18⅛ in.

Arthur Aeschbacher, who purchased it in 1955 from the artist.

Unagami Masanomi, YU-ICHI Catalogue Raisonné Volume 1 (1949-1969), (Tokyo, 1998), p. 67, CR no: 54003.

Born in Tokyo, Inoue Yuichi (1916–1985) first practiced to become a painter while working as an elementary school teacher. In 1941 He finally decided to focus on calligraphy, under a pioneer of avant-garde calligraphy, Ueda Sokyu (1899 – 1968). At that time, there was a surge of avant-garde calligraphy – they sought liberation from conventional calligraphy which encouraged to follow classic examples, and some of the artists even ceased from writing characters in order to express the pure beauty of ink and spaces. 

In 1952, Inoue formed Bokujin-kai with four other ambitious calligraphers. Pursuing their own calligraphy beyond traditionalism, the group referred to abstract painting, aesthetics, zen-philosophy and actively interacted with foreign abstract artists such as Pierre Soulages. Inoue’s works became highly acclaimed worldwide after being displayed at the exhibitions of Japanese Calligraphy at Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1954 and L’encre de Chine dans la calligraphie et l’art Japonais Contemporains in 1955 which travelled around five European countries.

Around 1955, Inoue abandoned writing characters and started to draw abstract forms with a broom and enamel paints, which resembled the Art Informel movement and action painting of that time – as if turning his back to all the conventional calligraphy world. However, he eventually returned to characters and drew one of his the most renowned early masterpieces, Gutetsu. Gutetsu, shown at the fourth São Paulo Biennnale in 1957, was later included in A Concise History of Modern Painting (1968) by Sir Herbert Read.

By exploring to the depth of characters, Inoue attained his dynamically emotional style that is not limited to calligraphy in a traditional sense. Many of his works are drawn with one character (Ichiji-sho), such as Hin [poor], Ai [love], Yume [dream].

This rare oil painting with an inscribed character of Hin [poor] is one of Inoue’s early works from 1954. It shows a rather restrained style compared to his later works. The character, Hin, had been drawn continuously throughout his career and it undoubtedly had a special meaning for him. For Inoue who barely survived from by the Great Tokyo Air Raid in 1945, the scenery of burnt-out ruins may have been the representation of Hin and also of himself re-started from there. Hin is a self-portrait of Inoue who lived his life away from the material culture.