• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 1904

    Post War and Contemporary Art Morning Session

    14 November 2007, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 150

    Isamu Noguchi (1904-1989)


    Price Realised  


    Isamu Noguchi (1904-1989)
    Lignum vitae wood
    7½ x 15½ x 8½ in. (19.1 x 39.4 x 21.6 cm.)
    Executed in 1939.

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    From the time of Noguchi's youth in Japan, he was attracted to natural materials and carving. Before studying under the auspices of Constantin Brancusi in 1927, he trained with a local cabinet-maker in Chigasaki where he learned the practical skills of joining, interlocking beams and the traditional techniques of antiquing through burning and rubbing with straw and wet sand. His apprenticeship with Brancusi reinforced the significance of his respect for his tools and materials, which led to the development of his mysterious purified abstract forms, and this is evident in Bird. The powerful silence that Noguchi so admired in Brancusi's work became evident in his own sculpture through a blending of natural materials with his primordial inclinations, as is apparent in this work.

    Revealing the technical dexterity and sculptural confidence of Isamu Noguchi's artistic style, Bird illuminates one of Noguchi's central themes - the relationship between art and nature. Maintaining the integrity of the material, he accentuated the act of creation through subtle transformations achieved with minimal carving and shaping. An economy of volume and line capture the grace of a bird, perhaps a waterfowl. This highly polished and refined surface that is captured in his intimately scaled sculpture is an exquisite blending of his abstract and representational style.

    A similar style and motif is echoed in the boldy simplified works of Georges Bracque and Henri Matisse. Bracque's Black Bird and White Bird mirror the grace with which subject and style unify in Noguchi's work of the same subject.


    Gaston de Havenon, New York
    By descent to the present owner


    N. Grove and D. Botnick, The Sculpture of Isamu Noguchi, 1924-1979, A Catalogue, 1980, p. 27, no. 157.