Exceptional Works by Japanese Master at Bonhams Sales

Bonhams will hold the second of a series of sales from the Misumi Collection of Important Works of Lacquer Art and Paintings on November 10 at its New Bond Street office in London.

Last year’s white-glove sale of the first part of the collection fetched a total of $2.16 million, over four times the pre-sale estimate.

A selection of masterpieces by Shibata Zeshin – such as the depiction of a tiger from an album of 18 urushi-e (lacquer) paintings (estimate $23,000 - 30,000) will be offered as part of the forthcoming sale, artdaily.com reports.

Lacquer artist Shibata Zeshin (1807-1891) was one of the most famous names of the Edo (1603-1867 AD) and Meiji era (1868-1912 AD) art world. He began his prolific and versatile career as an apprentice when he was 11 years old, but rapidly gained a reputation for the naturalistic style of painting that came into vogue with the arrival of European traders.

Japan’s new-found globalism was an inspiration to Zeshin, whose exposure to the formats and techniques of western art in the early years of the Meiji era had revolutionary artistic results, which are apparent in the works of the Misumi Collection. One of them was his development of urushi-e, paintings of wet lacquer applied to paper. This daring new method, so different from traditional maki-e (lacquer sprinkled with gold or silver powder as a decoration) was clearly intended to emulate oil painting on canvas.

His first panel, a landscape of Mount Fuji, was exhibited at the Vienna World Exposition of 1873, a symbol of Japan’s determination to blend the traditional and the foreign and forge a new artistic identity. The cover lot for this year’s sale, a paulownia-wood door panel featuring an autumn maple-viewing scene (estimate $152,000-228,000), exemplifies this revolutionary development.

His work never fell from favor with American and European collectors whose fascination with him dates back to the first international expositions. It is mostly thanks to this enthusiasm that Zeshin’s stock has now risen so dramatically in his own land.

Suzannah Yip, Bonhams Director of Japanese Art, says: “We are honored to have been entrusted with the dispersal of this remarkable collection of lacquer and painting by an artist whose work is so admired both inside and outside Japan.”