• Through a Collector's Eye: The auction at Christies

    Sale 14498

    Through a Collector's Eye: The Kenzo Kagami Collection of Postwar Japanese Art

    11 October 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 3

    Toshimitsu Imai (1928 - 2002)

    Fire and Earth

    Estimate

    Toshimitsu Imai (1928 - 2002)
    Fire and Earth
    signed Toshimitsu Imai and in Japanese Imai Toshimitsu (on the reverse)
    dated and inscribed Juillet 1958 Paris, also dated in Japanese (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas
    89.2 x 116 cm.
    Painted in 1958


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    Toshimitsu Imai achieved high acclaim as an artist who strove to break new boundaries as a painter. He was born in Kyoto in 1928 and went to school in Tokyo. He was awarded prizes as an artist from the early 1950s, exhibiting in the 15th Salon of Shinseisaku, winning a prize for best young artist. In search of the new, in 1952 he left for Paris where he studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, followed by Paris University. Almost immediately he became part of the dynamic international art scene in Paris, holding his first one-man exhibition in Paris at Galerie 25 in 1953 and in 1955 met Michel Tapié, who during the 1950s was the advisor to Rodolphe Stadler, owner of the leading avant-garde gallery which promoted Art Informel. From this point on Imai turned increasingly towards abstraction and along with his contemporary and fellow-Paris resident Hisao Domoto became contract artists of Galerie Stadler, and would both become recognised as Art Informel artists.

    Fire and Earth is a powerful work from this crucial and highly creative period of Toshimitsu Imai’s life. Thick impasto of brown, blue, green, white and yellow (Earth) is covered in a violent dripping of red (Fire). This work appears to reverence the Chinese philosophy of the Five Phases (Wu Xing) which comprises fire, earth, water, metal and wood; a philosophy which could be used to explain a wide array of phenomena from the structure of the cosmos to the interaction of internal organs in early Chinese thought. Eschewing form and composition, Imai’s passionate experimentation with the material of paint is evident - a characteristic of his work from this period, and one that he would continue to develop.

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    Provenance

    Galerie Stadler, Paris
    Collection of Peter Gibbs, London


    Pre-Lot Text

    Through A Collector's Eye: The Kenzo Kagami Collection of Post-War Japanese Art


    Literature

    Ichiro Hariu, Gasshu, Imai Toshimitsu, (Osaka, 1975), no. 44
    Kazu Kaido, Ichiro Hariu et. al, Reconstructions: Avant-Garde Art in Japan 1945-1965, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, (Oxford, 1985), p. 59-60
    Tokushu = Saikosei: Nihon no zenei 1945-1965 (Special Feature = Reconstructions: Avant-garde in Japan 1945-1965), in Art Vivant, edition 21, 1986, p. 56, 66-67
    National Museum of Art, Osaka, ed., Imai Toshimitsu ten: Toho no hikari (Imai Toshimitsu, A Retrospective), exhibition catalogue, (Tokyo, 1989), cat. no. 39, p. 44
    Shunroku Okudaira et. al, Nihon bijutsukan (The Art Museum of Japan), (Tokyo, 1997), p. 1102
    Gian Carlo Calza, IMAI, (Milan, 1998), p. 89
    The Museum of Modern Art, Gunma and The Museum of Art, Ehime, Through a Collectors Eye: Japanese Art after 1945, exhibition catalogue, (Japan, 2001), cat. no. 16, p. 37


    Exhibited

    December 1985 - April 1986: Reconstructions: Avant-Garde Art in Japan 1945-1965, The Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, and Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh
    April - May 1989: Imai Toshimitsu ten: toho no hikari (Imai Toshimitsu: A Retrospective 1950-1989), The National Museum of Art, Osaka and others
    September 2001 - January 2002: Through a Collectors Eye: Japanese Art after 1945, The Museum of Modern Art, Gunma and The Museum of Art, Ehime