YUICHI INOUE (Japanese, 1916–1985)




paste ink on Japanese paper

92.5 x 172.5 cm. (36 3/8 x 67 7/8 in.)
Executed in 1961
one seal of the artist

Private Collection, Japan

YU-ICHI Works 1955 – 85 Exhibition Catalogue, Kyoto, Japan, 1989 (illustrated, unpaged).

Masaomi Unagami (ed.), UNAC TOKYO, YU-ICHI (Yu-ichi INOUE): Catalogue Raisonné of the works, 1949-1985 (Vol. 1 1949-1969), Japan, 2000 (Catalogue No.: 61001).
Kyoto, Japan, The National Museum of Modern Art, YU-ICHI works 1955 – 85, 28 February 1989 – 26 March 1989.

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Lot Essay

"I don't think Chinese characters exist in a constant state; rather they take the form of a divine discourse. When Cangjie created characters, 'heaven rained millet, and ghosts cried in the night', so writing is a spiritual thing, capable of shaking even heaven." - YUICHI INOUE

In Japan, the traditional concept of calligraphy does not fall within the rubric of art, but it is seen as representing a craft . Yuichi Inoue breaks through this convention, taking Japanese calligraphy from traditional aesthetic appreciation to an element of his philosophy of human nature: the relationship between mind and body, of infusing human energy into language and text, with the inner meaning of the text more vividly expressed.


Inoue has at different periods issued his creative propositions, focusing on the significance of his unique creation of characters.

A (Lot 449) was displayed in 1989 at the Kyoto national Museum of Modern art exhibition. "a" is a Japanese phonetic symbol, and has no substantive meaning, but is rather an emotional interjection. The meaning of each word is of course well established, but as to how to express to viewers a meaning that does not exist for a particular word, virtually no other calligrapher has ever thought about this issue. Inoue's exploratory approach to the execution of the "a" word itself holds emotions and a hidden meaning. We can perceive his works' expression, akin to someone shouting out with shock force, and thus Inoue drives calligraphy forward to more extreme results. Visible painting or calligraphy, in addition to providing a visual experience, also expresses a more holistic and comprehensive record of human expression – momentum; thus "a" is a word infused with more extreme emotion.

The single characters or words that flow from Inoue's brush also correspond to the life situation of their creator at that given time. In the early 1960s, Inoue created many works with such titles as Dream, Mother, and Filial Piety, the background to which was his mother, who was bed-ridden with illness for ten years. Inoue once wrote the character "dream" and had his mother, who could not read characters, write it based thereon. After his mother died of illness, he had this calligraphic work of hers mounted on the quilt that had covered her bed for so many years. Clearly the traditional personality is not good at showing feelings, and this is often described as a cold artist's emotional side. We can easily perceive that the works Haha (Mother) (Lot 450) and Idaku (To Embrace)(Lot 451) contain Inoue's yearning for his departed mother, and his intense love for his daughter, Hanako Inoue, as well as his gratitude to his wife for taking care of their family.

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