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Sotheby's Hong Kong To Present Fine Chinese Paintings Spring Sale 2011 in April
Zhang Daqian’s Spring Mountains in Sichuan. Photo: Sotheby's.

HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Hong Kong will hold Fine Chinese Paintings Spring Sale 2011 on 5 April at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Several thematic sections will be featured, including Fine Chinese Paintings & Calligraphy from the Zan De Lou Collection, A Private Collection of Calligraphy by Hongyi, Late Ming to Early Qing Fan Paintings from the Baiyun Tang Collection, A Private Collection of Huang Junbi Landscape Paintings After Ancient Masters, Traces of Ink: Calligraphy Works from Mid-Qing to Mid-20th Century, Exquisite Paintings & Calligraphy from an Asian Private Collection, Important Zhang Daqian Painting from the Jie Ping Collection, as well as a series of paintings and calligraphy by Zhang Daqian. The total of 308 lots in this sale is expected to fetch in excess of HK$150 million*.

C.K. Cheung, Head of Sotheby’s Fine Chinese Paintings department, said: “We remain firmly focused on ensuring quality through stringent selection this Spring as evident in our lineup of exquisite works by distinguished masters of the genre. The artistry levels of our properties, and vast range of subject matters they encompass, are considerably exceptional for auctions held in recent years. Headlining our sale is Spring Mountains in Sichuan painted by Zhang Daqian in the 1950s. Accomplished at the prime of his career, it is a traditional landscape masterpiece rendered in his famous mogu (“boneless”) style.

“We will also present two major thematic sections featuring calligraphy works of great collection value -A Private Collection of Calligraphy by Hongyi and Traces of Ink: Calligraphy Works from Mid-Qing to Mid-20th Century. Chinese Buddhist monk Hongyi’s calligraphy works are prized for their unique style, which reveal an even greater breadth of vision following his conversion into Buddhism. We are pleased to have gathered seven treasured calligraphies by Hongyi from one single private collection. Collectively, they trace the subtle progressions in Hongyi’s artistry mirroring the spiritual transformations he experienced. As for Traces of Ink: Calligraphy Works from Mid-Qing to Mid-20th Century, we have assembled a total of 33 works by 31 calligraphers from the mid-Qianlong period to the 20th century. They include the works of literati, calligraphers and seal engravers such as Yi Bingshou, Zhao Zhiqian, Zhang Daqian and Xu Beihong. By far this is the most complete and largest Chinese calligraphy collection ever presented by Sotheby’s.”

Important Zhang Daqian Painting from the Jie Ping Collection
Zhang Daqian’s Spring Mountains in Sichuan (estimate upon request) was painted in the spring of 1953, after he moved with his family to Mendoza, Argentina in 1952. The artist wrote a heart-felt inscription on the painting, unmistakably a nostalgic recollection of his homeland in Sichuan, China.

The verdant mountains in this painting are portrayed in mogu (“boneless”) style, which no understructure of line work appears throughout the composition, bringing to life a natural landscape where a sense of orderliness prevails. Clear beautiful colours are complemented by brushworks layered in shades of green and blue mineral pigments, elegantly put together by Zhang in a scholarly, yet lively fashion. Meandering rivers and contouring mountain paths, together with valley haze represented by void spaces on the scroll, enrich the composition with visual contrasts while achieving an overall impression of harmony.

Back in the 1930s, Zhang had started painting in the mogu style that harks back to the ancient masters. Over the next twenty years, he perfected this artistic technique that became a part of his own powerful, unique style. Executed at the prime of the artist, this painting’s precise ink application brings out Zhang’s passions for his homeland. Upon completion, it was carefully kept by the artist, reflecting his strong emotional attachment to the work. It was only in the late 1960s that the painting was presented as a gift to his old friend Chen Chih-ping (1906-1984), a well-known senior diplomat of the Republic of China. This gift was treasured and carefully kept by Chen in excellent condition and never shown in public until now.

Various-owner Collection
Boating on the Kunming Lake (est. HK$320,000 - 450,000) recounts a scene in which artist Cao Qingtao and Beijing opera diva Xin Yanqiu went boating on a lake in the Summer Palace. Painted by the artist at Cao’s behest, it bears the latter’s annotation on top, complete with his signature. While Cao was a celebrated poet and drama critic, Xin gained fame as a Beijing opera actress under the tutelage of Beijing opera masters Wang Yaoqing and Mei Lanfang.

From Cao’s own paintings, one could tell that his relationship with Xin blossomed in around 1927. At the time, Xin had already made a name for herself but remained illiterate. It transpired that she became Cao’s disciple and, subsequently, his lover. From the details of Zhang Daqian’s signature and Cao’s first inscription, Boating on the Kunming Lake was probably painted in 1933. But by then the romance between Cao and Xin was over. Following the completion of Boating on the Kunming Lake, Cao invited 27 local and overseas veteran literati to leave their annotations on the work. Cao’s efforts to solicit poetic tributes to Xin from his literati friends demonstrated his deep feelings for his erstwhile lover, which seemingly still live on in this scroll.

A Qi Baishi Painting from the Robert Chang Collection
Qi Baishi drew on a wide repertoire of subject matters, including animals such as magpies, sparrows, doves, poultry, oxen and squirrels, and invested his renditions of them with interesting life-like details. He started painting rabbits in 1927, though this motif seldom appeared in his subsequent works. Rabbits Under Osmanthus Trees (est. HK$6 -8 million) counts as one of the rare rabbit paintings Qi undertook with wholehearted devotion. Completed in 1946, it bears testimony to Qi’s mature mastery of techniques with regard to the subject. Leafy osmanthus foliage, which dominates the top of the scroll, hangs over a pair of rabbits. Both sporting long, erect ears, one of the rabbits is seen lying down, while the other remains seated on the ground. A striking visual contrast is tellingly evoked by their different delineations. The white rabbit has an eye dotted in red; as for its black companion, only its back is shown so as to leave room for one’s imagination of how it actually looks. While Qi is able to pique viewers’ curiosity with this compositional approach, his own sense of child-like wonder comes across vividly in the painting’s minute details.

Exquisite Paintings & Calligraphy from an Asian Private Collection
Fu Baoshi’s Waterfall at Changbai Mountain (est. HK$5 -7 million) was completed in the sweltering summer of 1964. Depicted in the work is a scene from a painting journey that Fu embarked on with fellow artist Guan Shanyue in 1961 in Northeast China. On a few occasions, Fu set out to paint a waterfall at Changbai Mountain, a motif that appeared recurrently in the works of his mature years. In composition, this painting is similar to the earliest version he accomplished in 1961, except that the waterfall and tourists are delineated in more realistic proportions here, thereby accentuating the sense of harmony between \ humans and nature depicted. Closely mimicking nature, the waterfall is painted as a majestic cascade with water gushing forth through its rocks and boulders that not only present a grand spectacle of motion but also enables viewers to “hear” the roar of rushing torrents.

A Private Collection of 20th Century Chinese Paintings
An avid traveller in his lifetime, Wu Guanzhong was artistically inspired by his travels. After settling down in Beijing, he travelled south to visit Jiangsu province for a few times. One of the four most famous gardens in Suzhou, the Lion Grove Garden made its first appearance in Wu Guanzhong’s paintings in 1980s. Based on a quick still-life sketch he completed in 1980, he subsequently developed a magnum opus in colour and ink. Executed in 1987, the current work, Lion Grove Garden (est. HK$5 -7 million), depicts the renowned labyrinthine Taihu rock of the garden in similar composition style as his other versions, but on a much larger scale. Judging from the brushstrokes in his other previously exhibited works, The Lion Grove Garden is possibly the second of Wu’s paintings that bears the same compositional arrangement and theme. Rendering the garden in an abstract, sculpture-like style, Wu introduces viewers to another form of its beauty in abstractionist terms.

* Estimates do not include buyer’s premium

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