(Japanese, 1893-1962)
signed in Japanese (lower left); signed, dated, titled and inscribed in Japanese (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
89.6 x 71.5 cm. (35 1/4 x 28 1/8 in.)
Painted in 1942
Private Collection, Japan
Bijutsu Shuppan Sha, Zenzaburo Kojima Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 1964 (illustrated, plate 14).
Bijutsu Shuppan Sha, Zenzaburo Kojima Art Collection Book, Tokyo, Japan, 1972 (illustrated, p. 35; illustrated in black & white, plate 139, p.153).
Fukuoka Cultural Centre, Zenzaburo Kojima exhibition, Fukuoka, Japan, 1976 (illustrated, plate 50).
Shibundo, 'Zenzaburo Kojima' in Modern Art vol. 59, Tokyo, Japan, 1980 (illustrated in black & white, plate 66).
Fukuoka Art Museum, Kojima Zenzaburo Centennial Memorial Exhibition, Fukuoka, Japan, 1993 (illustrated, plate 114, p.135; illustrated in black & white, plate 114, p. 247).
Shibuya Shoto Museum of Art, Zenzaburo Kojima, Tokyo Japan, 1998 (illustrated, plate 52).
Fuchu City Museum, Pastoral Splendor - KOJIMA Zenzaburo, Tokyo, Japan, 2007 (illustrated, plate 70).
Tokyo, Japan, Museum City of Tokyo, The Twelfth Dokuritsu Exhibition, 1942.
Fukuoka, Japan, Fukuoka Cultural Centre, Zenzaburo Kojima Exhibition, 14 November - 5 December 1976.
Kojima Zenzaburo Centennial Memorial Exhibition, (traveling exhibition), 14 July-8 August 1993, Fukuoka Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan; 20 August-12 September 1993, Chiba Sogo Department Store, Chiba, Japan; 18 September-31 October 1993, The Museum of Modern Art Ibaraki, Ibaraki, Japan; 4 January-6 February 1994, Mie Prefecture Art Museum, Mie, Japan.
Tokyo Japan, Shibuya Shoto Museum of Art, Zenzaburo Kojima, 6 October - 23 November 1998.
Tokyo, Japan, Fuchu City Museum, Pastoral Splendor KOJIMA Zenzaburo, 2 June - 16 July 2007.

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Lot Essay

Longing for a pastoral life away from the city, the artist Zenzaburo Kojima moved to the rural area of Kokubunji, west of Tokyo city, in 1936. Starting form that year up until 1945, the end of the Second World War, is a period known as the "Kokubunji Period" of the artist. The artist enjoyed years of good health during those days, which gave him abundance of creative energy as he started to shift his painting subjects to landscape and still-life. Through simplified and purist forms, Kojima probed the cultural bedding that has fostered the traditional oriental practice of painting, leading him to another peak in his artistic career. Painted in 1942, Chrysanthemum (Lot 1106) was exhibited in "The 12th Independent Show" and other important solo shows of Kojima. The work demonstrates the artist's confidence and fluidity as he interchanged between the method of figurative and abstract painting; it is therefore, a unique and iconic still-life of Kojima.
The Japanese sees Chrysanthemum as a metaphor for the Sun. In Chrysanthemum, the flowers are presented as simplified geometric forms which trace the full and plump roundness of the flowers as they blossom. Whether it is the delicate outlines of the over-layering petals or the lightly painted leaves, the artist deliberately reduced depiction of contrast and shadowing. Kojima did not focus on the three dimensionality of the vase; instead, he placed emphasis on the red-and-blue duo-colour pattern on the vase by painting the design meticulously. Not only is this the artist's reinterpretation of the patterns, it also demonstrates a strong characterization of the national culture and aesthetic philosophy. This manner of colour application coincides with that of Ryuzaburo Umehara and Liao Chichun. The earliest surviving historical record in Japan, Record of Ancient Matters, often mentions the four colours, white, black, blue and red over the others. Using a highly vibrant scarlet red and navy blue, Kojima stressed the warm and cold contrasting tones. At the same time, the colour scheme reflects the Japanese nationalistic understanding and affection towards colour. Through oil painting, Kojima managed to showcase the unique Asian aesthetic that has derived from its unique history and geographical background.
The Ukiyo-e prints have been a great influence to Matisse in terms of their colouring concept. He has once said, "Colour exists in itself, and also for itself. It has its own beauty - this is the truth revealed by Japanese Ukiyo-e."Kojima has also derived from the Ukiyo-e prints the two-dimensionality and contrasting effect of colours. In Japanese traditional terms, the colour red represents illumination, combustion, repletion etc; it is a colour that is filled with energy, and a colour that also stands for surging emotions. Kojima boldly painted the background of Chrysanthemum in bright red, creating a strong visual impact, which is comparable to the use of a red background in Katsushika Hokusai's Red Fuji (Fig. 1) from the series, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji., and Utagawa Hiroshige's The Plum Garden in Kameido (Fig. 2), from the series, One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. Besides, in Chrysanthemum the boundary between the desk plane and the background is shown in an uneven straight line, which indicates the departure of the pictorial from a realistic portrayal. Instead, it is a deliberate arrangement and set up by the artist according to his personal artistic consciousness. The patches of brown on the khaki desk surface appear to be the wood-grain pattern or the shadow of the vase. Apart from that, the painting avoids the depiction of any light source or shadowing. The deliberate suggestion of an ambiguous space prompts the viewer to imagine and envision the unknown sphere.
Kojima painted Chrysanthemum in a detailed and seemingly realistic manner. On the other hand, the geometrical forms of the flowers and the patterned detailing of the vase are features that has come from the artist's personal induction and reflections. Embedded amidst the bright red background and the undefined space, is the essence of the traditional oriental concept of colour and spatiality. The image extends in between the tangible existence of still-life objects and the imaginary spatiality; the two creating a striking contrast. Chrysanthemum, therefore, expands the expressiveness of still-life paintings, making it a work representative of Kojima's style in synthesizing objective realism with personal abstraction.

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