(JAPANESE, 1893-1962)
signed in Japanese (lower left)
oil on canvas
117 x 91 cm. (46 1/4 x 35 3/4 in.)
Painted in 1942
Private Collection, Japan
Tokyo Nihonbashi Takashimaya, Zenzaburo Kojima Exhibition, exh. cat., Tokyo, Japan, 1972 (illustrated, plate 36).
Shueisha Publishing, Modern Japanese Art No. 10: Zenzaburo Kojima, Tokyo, Japan, 1975 (illustrated twice, plate 20; p. 116).
Fukuoka Cultural Centre, Zenzabro Kojima Exhibition, exh. cat., Fukuoka, Japan, 1976 (illustrated, plate 49).
Asahi Shimbun Publishing, Asahi Shimbun Special Issue: Zenzaburo Kojima, Japan, 1982 (illustrated, plate 35).
Nara Sogo Art Museum, Zenzaburo Kojima Exhibition, exh. cat., Nara, Japan, 1989 (illustrated, plate 34, p. 43).
Fukuoka Art Museum, Kojima Zenzaburo: Centennial Memorial Exhibition, exh. cat., Fukuoka, Japan, 1993 (illustrated, p. 134; illustrated in black & white, p. 247).
The Shoto Museum of Art, Kojima Zenzaburo: Creator of the Japanese Oil Painting, exh. cat., Tokyo, Japan, 1998 (illustrated, p. 88).
Tokyo, Japan, Tokyo City Museum, The Twelfth Dokuritsu Exhibition, 1942.
Tokyo, Japan, Tokyo Nihonbashi Takashimaya, Zenzaburo Kojima Exhibition, 1972.
Fukuoka, Japan, Fukuoka Cultural Centre, Zenzabro Kojima Exhibition, 14 November-5 December 1976.
Nara, Japan, Nara Sogo Art Museum, Zenzaburo Kojima Exhibition, 1989.
Kojima Zenzaburo: Centennial Memorial Exhibition, (travelling 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/17 November-5 December 1993, Odakyu Museum, Japan 4 January-6 February 1994, Mie Prefecture Art Museum, Mie, Japan.
Tokyo, Japan, The Shoto Museum of Art, Kojima Zenzaburo: Creator of the Japanese Oil Painting, 10 October - 23 November, 1998.
Tokyo, Japan, Fuchu City Museum, Pastoral Splendour: Kojima Zenzaburo, 2 June-16 July 2007.

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Felix Yip
Felix Yip

Lot Essay

Longed 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 career. Chrysanthemum, painted in 1942, is a representative of Kojima's production in this period. The same year it was displayed in the "12th Dokuritsu Exhibition" held in the City Museum of Tokyo. Since then it was widely exhibited in cities like Tokyo, Nara and Fukuoka, having a place in many of Kojima's solo exhibition and most of the monographs on the artist.

In Chrysanthemum, the flowers and the vase in the middle constitute the vertical axis of the work, while the desktop is made the horizontal axis. Such an orderly spatial structure engenders a sedate, restful and peaceful ambience in the painting. The vivid, highly contrastive colors, on the other hand, emanate a tang of gracefulness and gaiety. The artist, with his consummate skills, introduces the Rimpa style and the Ukiyoe colors into his oils, achieving what he dubbed the "Neo-Japanism". The Ukiyoe woodblock prints had considerably influenced Henri Matisse's concept on color: "color exists in itself, and for itself. It has its own beauty - this is the truth the Japanese Ukiyoe reveals." Kojima, too, has availed of the two-dimensionality and strong contrasting effect of Ukiyoe colors, furnishing Chrysanthemum with the splendid Rimpa coloration. The work displays a highly decorative orientation: the accentuated expressive power of colors, two-dimensionality and sense of flatness. In like manner the contrast between light and shadow is deliberately curtailed; this, however, plays up the juxtaposition between colors, especially the light orange of the tablecloth and the bright green of the background. The plain, pleasantly old-fashioned clay vase is yet another contrast to the vibrant, almost kaleidoscopic chrysanthemums. The artist, moreover, has departed from the realistic depiction of still-life -the flowers and the vase, for example, are given geometrical shapes, and the desk depicted by a curled, uneven line against the green background - but turned to the representation of his own subjective judgment of beauty.

A highly influential figure in the Japanese modern art sphere, Kojima is wont to give young artists advice, urging them, in particular, to be brave enough to cut off from "the French style, which has dominated the world for over a hundred year". It is then obvious that Kojima's "western learning" is a simple acquisition, never an imitation. He insisted in establishing an idiosyncratic style for his "Western" paintings, one that is embedded with the essence of Eastern art, which is often a deviation from the objective, realistic world. For Eastern artists, materiality is just a means; the ideal has always been to communicate a spiritual realm, and the sensation and aura within, through representation. Viewers are prompted to cross the threshold of a particular spirituality and aesthetical experience. We will find this very quality of Eastern art overwhelming in the works of Kojima, which are highly expressive and incorporeal. Chrysanthemum, being a representative, is unique as an amalgam of different Asian aesthetic elements. Kojima, by introducing into modern oils the traditional Japanese colors, decorative style, and even the quaintness of ancient Japanese pottery, has produced an archetype of the "japanization" or "asianization" of western oil painting, from which the Asian art evolves and burgeons. It does not come as a surprise, then, that Kojima is appraised as "the Creator of the Japanese Oil Painting".

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