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signed and dated 'S. RHEE. 58' (lower right); inscribed '5830P19' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
65 x 91.5 cm. (25 5/8 x 36 in.)
Painted in 1958
Private Collection, France (acquired directly from the artist by the present owner)

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Jessica Hsu
Jessica Hsu

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Lot Essay

Demonstrating the deep subtleties of colour, Rhee Seundja's early works characterize her as a unique and intense artist in search of absolute truth. Christie's is delighted to present masterpieces of Rhee Seundja's early career from the collection of a French gentleman whose sense of duty to promote the artist's work beyond French borders. The current selection brings highly qualitative and fresh works to the market, emblematic of the artist's early series of "Abstraction" and "Woman and Earth".

A difficult personal life in the aftermath of the Korean war led Rhee Seundja, mother of three sons, to leave her country and uproot herself to France, where she started attending classes at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, artistic hub for Asian diaspora students among others. Without previously acquired formal painting training, Rhee started with painting figurative landscapes. Her assistantship with Henri Goetz gradually led her to abstraction, a language she continued to develop for the rest of her career. Rhee's curiosity and appetite for artistic exploration has made her a talented artist and colourist across different media, in particular oil painting and woodblock printing. Less interested in commercial recognition than in investigating new visual expression, her career has developed into separate identifiable series corresponding to different periods of her life and research.

Untitled (Lot 413) and Untitled (Lot 415) were both painted as part of her "Abstraction" series. Differing in composition, both works are a perfect illustration of transition, the former from figurative to abstract and the latter from abstract to "Woman and Earth", reminding us Henri-Edmond Cross, "Landscape, the Little Maresque Mountains ". While the former is a brilliant display of colour balance through thick layering of paint on the canvas, the latter introduces geometric shapes such as circles, semi-circles and squares and lines, unlimited in their borders and symbolizing harmony between earth and woman.

Rhee's obsession with her connection to nature is especially enhanced in her "Woman and Earth" series, when the artist felt a need to express her womanhood, and more particularly her motherhood. Au Fond de la Nuit (Lot 414) superimposes layers of short strokes of deep blue and orange forming a pathway revolving around a square. Here, the artist is building up a world in which the viewer is invited to travel inside with her, accompanying the artist in her creation to make her feel as "a woman, a woman as a mother, and a mother as the earth" (Rhee Seundja).

Untitled (1958), Untitled (1960) and Au Fond de la Nuit are powerful anchor points to introduce Rhee Seundja's vast body of works, each emblematic of important periods of her early career which propelled her to international recognition.

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