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Lot 185

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Jack Kerouac Original Oil & Pencil Drawing, "The Vision of Dipankara"

An original drawing by Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), the famous American Beatnik writer and artist. Provenance: The piece will be accompanied by an estate certification signed by John Shen-Sampas, executor of the Kerouac Estate by descent. John Shen-Sampas is the son of John Sampas, who was the brother-in-law of Jack Kerouac, and the brother of Stella Kerouac, Jack's wife.

The work, entitled "The Vision of Dipankara," is a mixed media (oil and pencil) on a leaf of red-ruled spiral notebook paper. Signed by Jack Kerouac as "Jean-Louis Kerouac" at lower right. The title of the work, as well as a caption at lower right, are inscribed in pencil. The drawing is suspended in a floating mount at center and framed behind glass. Not examined out of frame. Portions of the white pigment found on the pyramid depicted at center appear to have been embossed. The paper leaf shows expected wear, including a light diagonal fold at upper right. Minor paper loss at lower left where the leaf was ripped out of the notebook. Pinholes at the corners. Isolated foxing, else near fine. The work could have been exhibited, as a gallery label appears verso. The paper leaf measures 8.25" x 5" while the overall frame measures 11.75" x 9.25" x .5."

The drawing's title refers to one of the most significant figures in Buddhism, the Dipankara Buddha, alternately known as the "Lamp Bearer" or "Causer of Light." In the background of the drawing, the silhouette of a shaven head is visible. The same figure's mauve arms encircle a central pyramid, while the right hand forms the protection mudra, or abhaya mudra. The smaller seated black form in the foreground appears to be headless, its torso emblazoned with a ferocious mask. A bladed instrument at lower right is captioned. Kerouac's writing is unclear, but it appears to read "Sword of Imagination (?)."

Dipankara was a semi-mythical Buddha that preceded the historical Buddha, Gautama Buddha, by thousands of eons. The "Vision of Dipankara" refers to a meeting that occurred between Dipankara and Gautama Buddha, then incarnated as Sumedha, a Brahmin hermit. According to the foundational story, Sumedha laid his hair out on the ground over a puddle so that Dipankara could tread on it without soiling his feet. This act of self-abnegation and piety inspired Dipankara's prediction that Sumedha would one day become a Buddha named Shakyamuni (also known as Gautama Buddha.)

Kerouac's artistic aspirations first emerged when he attempted a self-portrait at nine years old, according to John Shen-Sampas, Kerouac's literary estate executor. Kerouac claimed that he would rather be a painter than a writer, and when he was writing, he filled his notebooks and journals with sketches and doodles. While Kerouac was never really known for “his artistic endeavors in painting and drawing," when he died, Kerouac “left a trove of portraitures, drawings and sketches behind." Kerouac's artwork was inspired by celebrated modern artists like Willem de Kooning, but also by his interest in Buddhism. Kerouac devoted himself to the study, interpretation, and practice of Buddhism after being first introduced to it in the mid-1950s. His literary works "Some of the Dharma" (1955-56) and "The Dharma Bums" (1958) explore the mid-century American quest for enlightenment.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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August 19, 2020 10:30 AM EDT

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