RHEE SEUNDJA (1918-2009)
RHEE SEUNDJA (1918-2009)
1 More
RHEE SEUNDJA (1918-2009)

For Red Poppy

RHEE SEUNDJA (1918-2009)
For Red Poppy
signed and dated ‘SEUND JA RHEE 60’ (lower right)
oil on canvas
130 x 162 cm. (51 1/8 x 63 3/4 in.)
Painted in 1960
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner
Korean Abstract Painting, exh. cat., Gallery Hyundai, Seoul, Korea, 2015 (illustrated, pp. 224-225).
Forming Nature: Dansaekhwa Korean Abstract Art, exh. cat., Christie’s, New York, U.S.A., 2015 (illustrated, pp.34-35).
Rhee Seundja 1918-2009, exh. cat., Maronie Books, Seoul, Korea, 2018 (illustrated, pl.18).
The 100th Anniversary of Birth Seundja Rhee: Road to the Antipodes, exh. cat., National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon, Korea, 2018 (illustrated, p. 18).
A Narrative of Korean Art: from Celadon to Abstraction and Beyond, exh. cat., Christie’s, Hong Kong, 2019 (illustrated, p. 22).
Paris, France, Galerie Synthese, Seundja Rhee, 1962.
Gallery Hyundai, Seoul, Korea, Korean Abstract Painting, 25 March – 22 April 2015.
New York, U.S.A., Christie’s, Forming Nature: Dansaekhwa Korean Abstract Art, 8-23 October 2015.
Seoul, Korea, Gallery Hyundai, Rhee Seundja’s Abstract Painting 1957-1968, 6 September – 7 October 2018.
Gwacheon, Korea, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, The 100th Anniversary of Birth Seundja Rhee: Road to the Antipodes, 22 March – 29 July 2018.
Hong Kong, Christie’s, A Narrative of Korean Art: from Celadon to Abstraction and Beyond, 27 February – 12 March 2019.

Brought to you by

Jacky Ho (何善衡)
Jacky Ho (何善衡)

Lot Essay

“Here I show you nature. Here I record the essence of life.” - Rhee Seundja

In 1956, Rhee Seundja’s paintings were included in a group exhibition in Paris, where they caught the attention of Georges Boudaille (1925- 91), a noted French art critic. He was instantly mesmerized by Rhee’s work, and became an enthusiastic supporter of this young talented artist from Korea. Boudaille described her work in his essay, “I’d dare to say that it is not necessary to analyse Rhee’s works to understand her art world. Rhee’s paintings induce the viewer to be melted into them and reach a certain state of mind becoming one with them. Her marvellous works gradually enchant viewers to feel the peace and a new philosophy of her own and to be fascinated by them as if a piece of poem transcending time and space opens an unknown world to the reader.”

Rhee Seundja has been a prolific and prominent figure on the international art scene over the course of her artistic career, with over 80 solo and 300 group exhibitions held in noteworthy art galleries and museums all over the globe, including France, Germany, Japan and Korea. Recently, a large scale retrospective exhibition Seundja Rhee: Road to the Antipodes was held at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Korea in 2018 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the artist’s birth. It marked Rhee’s 3rd retrospective exhibition in the National Art Museums in Korea, following her first one in 1978 and second one in 1988.

For Red Puppy , featured here, is a rare masterpiece from Rhee’s early years, showcasing multiple characteristics of her remarkable artistic development. First, the work exemplifies Rhee‘s transformation from figurative to abstract art, combining form and narrative content. It also displays her artistic process, how she reinterprets the world and nature as she sees them, and recomposes them upon the reflection of her own mind. For Red Puppy is a perfect result of abstraction based on content, which she passionately pursued. As Rhee once said, “I wanted to merge the Asian mind with the Western material.”

The painting also epitomizes Rhee’s early mature style: the Woman and Earth series, created using a myriad of fine brushstrokes. Contrary to its simple, refined appearance, the painting is the result of a painstakingly time-consuming process and delicate brush techniques. Numerous layers are carefully applied with patience and an accurate dexterity, resulting in exquisite texture. About her Woman and Earth series, Rhee noted, “I am a woman, woman is mother, and mother is earth.” She also mentioned, “If I moved my brush once more, my children would eat one more spoon… I felt anxious about my children when I was not working on paintings day and night, and I felt the pain of missing them,” recalling her painful experience as a mother due to the separation from her three sons forced by her divorced husband’s family.

To Rhee, the innumerable repetition of the small dots and short brushstrokes felt equivalent to the act of cultivating the land, nurturing seeds to grow. More importantly, the staggering repetition of brushstrokes represented a connection to her three beloved children from whom she had been separated since 1951 due to marital discord. Each brushstroke expresses a yearning to tend to her children; each mark of the canvas embodies a longing to recreate maternal duties, the missed caresses, and the symbolic feeding of children thousands of miles away. For Red Puppy represents an extension of Rhee's motherly affection for her children, and the longing and true love behind each brushstroke creates a deep resonance in the viewer.

This painting demonstrates that her intense endeavour and implacable devotion to becoming a true painter ultimately did come to fruition. Furthermore, not only did she establish herself as an artist, she became a true master of her medium. As stated by Raymond Nacenta, a French art dealer and art historian who ran the Galerie Charpentier where Rhee had multiple solo exhibitions, "Rhee’s works show touches of magic colour in simply constructed shapes. There is architectural toughness juxtaposed with soft sensitive emotion." Throughout her lifelong artistic career, Rhee created eternal beauty, transcending time and borders with her marvellous compositions of colour and form, fusing herself with nature.

More from Modern and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

View All
View All