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    Akira Kurosawa (c. 1970s). Signed Preliminary Artwork from Kagemusha (10.75" X 14").
    In 1936, at the age of twenty-six, a disheartened artist named Akira Kurosawa burned his entire portfolio, intent on abandoning his love of painting forever. Western cinematic history embraced this newcomer in 1950 -- Japanese filmmaking led by Kurosawa's momentous Rashomon, winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. A prodigious wave of creative output followed: Ikiru (1952), Seven Samurai (1954), Throne of Blood (1957), Yojimbo (1961), and High and Low (1963), all of which garnered the still-evolving director worldwide acclaim. Toward the end of a very creative decade the director's reputation and career took a plunge. Kurosawa, unable to secure financing for forthcoming projects, in December, 1971 made a gruesome attempt to end his life. Unsuccessful, the director perhaps prescribed his own recovery, that of slaying his mounting frustrations by drawing and painstakingly painting his exact vision of what a film could even further enunciate. Then, vigilantly showcased those images to anyone who might stake their claim on such vivid sketches. The artist would come to rely on his first passion as a form of solace and an exercise of hope during an agonizing stretch when his career descended into a despair-inducing free fall. It would be his buoy, his rescue, a ferocious "second wind" that would carry him to far more acclaim than he could have imagined. In the case for an aging Kurosawa, who ardently entrenched himself in the Japanese film industry the same year of his incinerated first-love, he would not fall into despair and allow his acclaimed career to collapse when forced to change his course. Kurosawa's inherent talent to express visual lushness would ultimately pay dividends, beginning with intricately crafted scenes for a film he would entitle Kagemusha (Shadow Warrior), a 16th century epic composed of horizon-spanning armies of flag carrying infantry, mounted calvary and phalanxes of riflemen. While he struggled to find a backer for Kagemusha (or any other project really), Kurosawa meticulously storyboarded the entire film using sketches and paintings. The director said of his approach, "In many of my movies when I could not find words to explain to my cast and crew what I wanted, I would make a sketch. But this case was special. I wanted to leave behind some record of my plans." Kurosawa didn't really believe funding for his new historical epic would ever materialize. Abundantly colorful and employing an array of media -- watercolor, pencil, marker, crayon, ink -- in the artist's own words, "I use whatever materials I can get my hands on at the time...I do them fast." Slowly, the film community took notice, particularly other young intrepid filmmakers of the age, who were admitted admirers of Kurosawa. They included American filmmakers George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola. Entranced by Kurosawa's screenplay and illustrations, Lucas lobbied for support from 20th Century Fox (the studio that had released Kurosawa ten years prior) to back the project. In the interim, Kurosawa's "storyboard" drawings in mixed media drew support from his eventual crew, who took inspiration from his unwavering enthusiasm and sense of detail. The result is unequivocal. The likeness between the drawings and actual film scenes is uncanny. In his own words, Kurosawa said he did the drawings to "help himself develop concrete images of the costumes, sets, background, everything that's going into the frame." When watching the film, it's evident how his visions were so meticulously duplicated. The image is noted in the upper left, "Battlefield Messenger - Tuskaiban."
    This comes from the scene near the finale as the opposing army prepares for battle against the Takeda army in the battle of Nagashino. Water color and pencil on artist paper. There is paper residue in the corners on the verso and light foxing throughout on the front. These works are a unique find, a rare opportunity to acquire something by the hand of the late legendary director who opened up Japanese filmmaking to the world. Fine+.

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    Auction Dates
    March, 2015
    28th-29th Saturday-Sunday
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