Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    Akira Kurosawa (c. 1970s). Signed Preliminary Artwork from Kagemusha (10.5" 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. This drawing is noted in the lower left side, "High Tenjin lineup - Ko tenjin fugi." This painting appears to be a scene from the Battle of Taketinjin. Watercolor on artist paper. There is a chip in the top left and bottom right, a sticker with a number on it in the right border, and small paper residue on the verso in the corners that does not affect 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/Very Fine.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    March, 2015
    28th-29th Saturday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 0
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,448

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2020 March 21 - 22 Movie Posters Signature Auction - Dallas.

    Learn about consigning with us

    Grey is a true asset to Heritage Auctions and Heritage Auctions are a true asset to the Movie Poster Hobby.
    Jim G.,
    Ray, MI
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Auction #161941 spotlights

    Babes in Arms (MGM, 1939). Fine- on Linen. One Sheet

    Rio Bravo (Warner Brothers, 1959). Fine/Very Fine on Linen. French Grande (44.5" X 62.5") Jean Mascii Artwork

    Godzilla vs. the Thing (American International, 1964). Folded, Very Fine-. Three Sheet

    Charlie Chan in the Secret Service (Monogram, 1944). Fine on Linen. Three Sheet

    Raiders of the Lost Ark (Paramount, 1981). Folded, Very Fine/Near Mint. Die-Cut Standee

    Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier (Buena Vista, 1955). Folded, Very Fine-. Six Sheet

    The Big Sleep (Warner Brothers, 1946). Very Fine-. Lobby Card

    Blonde Venus (Paramount, 1932). Fine. Lobby Card

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2019 July 27 - 28 Movie Posters Signature Auction - Dallas
    2019 July 27 - 28 Movie Posters Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED $1,976,816
    Sunday Internet Movie Poster Auction
    Sunday Movie Posters Weekly Online Auction
    REALIZED $65,512.60