木村伊兵衛 Ihei Kimura - Photographs London Wednesday, May 25, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'What kind of a rural village will be built by the feudal generation and the generation made up of young people who are not satisfied with it?' —Ihei Kimura

    A Tokyo native, Ihei Kimura (1901-1974) began documenting rural life in Akita Prefecture, an agricultural region in northern Japan, at the age of 51, after 30 years of photographing in the city. ‘It seemed that the real condition found in these rural villages had many aspects that lent themselves to being expressed photographically as a microcosm of the reality we are living in,’ he explained, ‘so I went to shoot there throughout the four seasons, trying to capture the younger and older generations through their daily lives.’ Fascinated by the rural communities that he encountered, Kimura continued to work in Akita for 19 years, over a course of 21 visits.
     
    Taken in 1952, his first year photographing in Akita, Young Men, Niida, Akita City, offered here, is emblematic of Kimura’s desire to capture the gap between the new and old generations lurking in these rural areas. Using his Leica, Kimura depicts young men with hairstyles and clothes that have never been seen in these farming villages – a new generation of rural youths who wear their Sunday best with splashed pattern as everyday clothes. His focus on spontaneity is revealed in the arrangement of the three youths, especially the young man on the left looking at the camera and the young man in the centre looking left, as Kimura masterfully captures the balance between the positions of the faces and the lines of sight. Considered the most iconic work by this master of photo-realism as well as one of the most important works of post-war photography in Japan, Young Men has been featured in exhibitions worldwide, including Photographs from the Museum Collection at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1958-59) and The History of Japanese Photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2003).
     
    Throughout his long career, Kimura consistently argued that his photographs were intended to be published and not to be sold as works of art. Consequently, early prints of Young Men are rare. Three of the five known extant early prints – one at MoMA (1959 gift), another sold at auction and the present work –  are on 8x10 paper, his preferred size for prints he made for the purpose of publication, and are unsigned, which is typical of his prints. The remaining two prints, one held at the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo (1956 gift) and the other at the Société Française de Photographie in Paris (1960 gift), are larger in size. 


    Furthermore, the history of this print on offer can be traced from the various annotations found on the verso. It was originally sent to Robert Kirschenbaum, owner of the Tokyo-based photo agency Pacific Press Service, which used to represent Magnum amongst other American and European agencies. Then, at some point, this photograph was in the possession of Kon Sasaki (1918-2009), an award-winning Japanese photographer and Kimura’s first apprentice. Sasaki met Kimura in 1951, the year before Kimura began his seminal Akita series, and became his first pupil, working for Kimura until his death in 1974. This print, likely to have been gifted to Sasaki from Kimura, has been held privately in Japan since it was acquired from Zeit-Foto Salon (Japan’s first and longest-running commercial photography gallery) in 2008 and is appearing at auction for the first time. 
     
    Phillips Photographs extend our sincere thanks to photographer Kazuo Kitai, who had a close relationship with Kimura, for his expertise and advice.

     

     I. Kimura, Akita, Tokyo: Nikkor Club, 1978

    • Provenance

      Directly from the artist
      Kon Sasaki, his first pupil
      Zeit-Foto Salon, Tokyo, 2008

    • Exhibited

      Contemporary Photography: Japan & France, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, 22 June - 15 July 1956, another
      Photographs from the Museum Collection, MoMA, New York, 26 November 1958 – 18 January 1959, another
      Sélection de l’Association des Critiques de Photographie Japonais, Société Française de Photographie, Paris, 18 - 31 March 1960, another
      Photographs: Kimura Ihee, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, 17 April - 2 June 1992, another
      Ihei Kimura and Akita, Akita Senshu Museum of Art, 11 February - 21 March 1994, another
      The History of Japanese Photography, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2 March - 27 April 2003; Cleveland Museum of Art, 18 May - 27 July 2003, another
      Ihei Kimura – The Man with the Camera, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, 9 October - 19 December 2004, another
      Ihee Kimura and Henri Cartier-Bresson, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, 28 November 2009 – 7 February 2010, another

    • Literature

      I. Kimura, Selected Pictures, Tokyo: Asahi, 1954, pl. 121
      I. Kimura, Akita, Tokyo: Nikkor Club, 1978, pl. 65
      Photographs: Kimura Ihee, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, 1992, p. 36
      Ihei Kimura and Akita, Akita Senshu Museum of Art, 1994, p. 17
      A. Tucker et al., The History of Japanese Photography, New Haven: Yale, 2003, p. 237, pl. 142
      Ikei Kimura – The Man with the Camera, Tokyo: The National Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 62, pl. 79

ULTIMATE

35

青年、秋田市仁井田 Young Men, Niida, Akita City

1952
Gelatin silver print, probably printed 1960s.
Image: 15.9 x 23.1 cm (6 1/4 x 9 1/8 in.)
Sheet: 20.2 x 25.3 cm (7 7/8 x 9 7/8 in.)

Credited, titled ‘The Youths’, dated, annotated ‘Return to Robert Kirschenbaum’ in unidentified hands in pencil and ‘Owner Sasaki Kon’ by Sasaki, Kimura’s first pupil, in Japanese in red pencil, all on the verso.

As of this writing, this work is one of only five known extant early prints of Kimura’s most iconic image. Three of the prints reside in institutional collections – Museum of Modern Art, NY; Société Française de Photographie, Paris; and the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo – and another was sold at auction in 2009.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£10,000 - 15,000 

Sold for £27,720

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Photographs

London Auction 25 May 2022