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    Sale 2631

    Asian Contemporary Sale (Day Sale)

    1 December 2008, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1109


    Price Realised  


    (Born in 1953)
    Playing in (Korin's) Irises Sleeping Naoko
    signed and titled 'Mitsuru Watanabe; Playing in (Korin's) Irises Sleeping Naoko' in Japanese (on reverse)
    oil on canvas
    162.1 x 130.3 cm. (63 3/4 x 51 1/4 in.)
    Painted in 2008

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    It is all too easy to be enthralled in the rich Classical and Modern art imagery of Mitsuru Watanabe's paintings. From Botticelli's Primavera, Girl and Tangerine (Lot 1110), to Japanese artist, Ogata Korin's Irises, Playing in -Korin's- Irises/Sleeping Naoko (Lot 1109), the reference of a heavenly presence is undeniable. Watanabe fuses with his everyday figures, two of the most famous and frequently reproduced masters from the Eastern and the Western tradition, using specifically two of their works that share the same appeal: the rebirth of spring. He believes that it is this combination of idioms and famous works with the ordinary that produces a distinctive and inspired work. In each of these two paintings, Naoko or Yukiko, the two main protagonists are dreaming and dazed, indirectly connected to the great works of art. In this unique scenario, the works of Botticelli and Korin only serve as the context for a contemporary painting and girl.

    In Playing in (Korin's) Irises/Sleeping Naoko (Lot- 1109), the young girl is resting in a field of irises, while dogs, whose images are also taken from traditional Japanese painting, play around her. The whole composition emanates a dreamy feel, further accentuated by the bright gold background. The viewer is left to imagine what Naoko could be dreaming about so peacefully. Similarly the audience is perplexed by Yukiko's gaze in Girl and Tangerine (Lot 1110). As she reads the acid green pages of a Japanese manga, Yukiko's eyebrows are raised, as if someone is gently whispering in her left ear. With delicate and even brushstrokes and a three quarter profile, Watanabe acutely replicates the tactile quality of an Italian Renaissance work of art. As painters of the 16th Century were very attentive to composition Watanabe positions a triangular figure as the central focus of his works.

    In both paintings, the story is clear and simple, a creative rearrangement of portraits and masterpieces. His works although bright, colourful and imaginative are not meant to humour. Instead Watanabe instigates the viewer to question why we respect and understand prominent artworks and persuades him or her to draw a personal connection for these pieces, not one dictated by books and reputation.