Sohrab Sepehri (Iranian, 1928-1980)
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Sohrab Sepehri (Iranian, 1928-1980)

Untitled (from the Tree-Trunks series)

Sohrab Sepehri (Iranian, 1928-1980)
Untitled (from the Tree-Trunks series)
signed and dated 'SEPEHRI,72' (lower left)
oil on canvas
38 1/8 x 49½ in. (97 x 126 cm.)
Painted in 1972
Collection of Ali Asghar Petgar, Tehran, by whom acquired directly from the artist.
Private collection, Tehran.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1982.
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Lot Essay

If you are coming to see me,
I am beyong the Land of Nothingness.
Beyong the Land of Nothingness is quite a place.
Beyond the Land of Nothingness, the veins of the air
Swarm with blowballs that bring word
From the farthest flowering plant of the Earth
And sands bear the imprint of hoofs of those delicate horsemen
Who climbed the Hill of the red poppys Ascension at dawn.
Beyong the Land of Nothingness, the wishing umbrellas are open:
The moment a breath of thirst touches a leaf to the quick,
The alarm bells of rain are sounded.
One is lonely here
And in this loneliness, the shade of an elm flows on to eternity.
If you are coming to see me,
Pray step gently, softly
Lest the thin shell of my loneliness
Should crack.

(Sohrab Sepehri, translation by K. Emami and Sh. Bakhash)

Sohrab Sepehri is not only a poet whose heritage has been celebrated worldwide, he remains undoubtedly a key figure in Modern Iranian Art and inspired a generation of artists. Born in Kashan in 1928, Sepehri travelled at a young age to explore the world. His journey began in 1957 when he first settled in Paris and enrolled in the Académie des Beaux-Arts. The following year, he stayed in Rome and visited the Venice Biennale, but Japan was his next destination and perhaps the most inspiring of all. When in 1960 Sepehri went to Tokyo to study the techniques of wood engraving and lithography, he discovered the Far-Eastern traditional arts and spirituality.

Upon his return to his homeland in 1965, he began his tree-trunk paintings, which revealed his cultural and aesthetic influences through minimal almost abstract compositions. Later in the early 1970s, while Sepehri was staying in New York to produce major commissions for museums, he painted a few works from his Tree-trunks series of which the present painting is a fine example. Through his work, the artist escaped from the hustle of the city and the pressures of his time.

Greatly inspired by Western painting, by Japanese poetry and art as well as Buddhism, Taoism and Zen philosophy, Sepehri depicted austere images of trees, often elm trees, with no foliage nor branches as if to reveal nature's benevolence, stability and a strong sense of abstraction. He captivated the essence of the tree and contemplated the subtle beauties of nature through soft brushstrokes, dark outlines and an earthly palette. The tree-trunks, depicted in close-up, seem to grow beyond the physical boundaries of the canvas and thus, embody a timeless abstraction, far beyond superficial reality.

Sohrab Sepehri, perhaps the most acclaimed Modern Iranian artist, was a constant traveller, a visionary poet and a passionate painter. He passed away prematurely in 1980, but his oeuvre had a lasting influence on generations of artists in Iran and across borders.

Acquired upon Sepehri's return to Tehran by the well-known Iranian Modern painter Ali Asghar Petgar, the present work went a few years later in the hands of one of Petgar's pupil and friend, from whom the present owner acquired it in 1982.

Untitled (from the Tree-trunks series) is one of the most intimate and delicate examples from the most sought-after series of the artist and one of the very few from the artist's New York period which have remained in private hands.

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