Leading global auction house Christies
will present rare and exceptional Chinese paintings at its upcoming Hong Kong Autumn Sales on 28-29 November, 2011. With nearly 600 lots valued over HK$535 million (US$69 million), the sales will feature superlative Chinese classical works by calligraphers and painters such as Wang Duo, Shen Shichong, Chen Jiru, Wen Peng and Chen Hongshou, and modern masterpieces by renowned artists such as Zhang Daqian, Qi Baishi, Xu Beihong, Yang Shanshen and Zhao Shaoang. Reflecting a wide range of artistic styles evolving over several centuries, the works offer an unrivalled opportunity for discerning collectors to acquire rare works with excellent provenance and quality.
Fine Chinese Classical Paintings and Calligraphy Sale
Chinese calligraphy is a unique and abstract art form that had its beginnings thousands of years ago. Its emphasis on motion and form to express pictorial and semantic meanings has long been a source of fascination to global collectors old and new. Especially significant was the Ming dynasty (15th to 17th century) which saw the heyday of the literati. Highlights from this Christies sale will feature works by many key artists representative of this period.
Born in Mengjin, Henan Province in China, Wang Duo was a late-Ming government official and a renowned painter and calligrapher. Best known for his cursive script (considered the most expressive script in Chinese calligraphy, he wrote with strong, vigorous strokes reminiscent of the classical style, but added his own features to create a unique form.
Leading the Chinese Classical paintings and calligraphy sale is a masterpiece by Wang entitled Poems in Cursive Script Calligraphy, a handscroll painted on satin, dated 1650 when Wang was going on 60 years old. Displaying rich, energetic and flowing brushstrokes that recall the techniques of early Tang Dynasty calligraphers Zhang Xu and Huai Su, this work reflects Wang Duos dynamic yet refined style which had a lasting influence on the development of Chinese calligraphy. Estimated at HK$5,000,000 7,000,000/US$650,000 910,000, the present work comes from the family collection of Wang Yiting (1867-1938), who was a renowned member of the Shanghai elite during the late Qing and Republican eras. The provenance of the work is further enhanced by inscriptions from other notable collectors who were contemporaries of Wang Yiting: the label is by Lu Hui (1851-1920), inscribed in 1903, the frontispiece is by Yan Xinhou (1838-1906), and the colophon is by Lu Hui, Yang Baoguang (1830-1912), and Di Pingzi (1872-1942).
Shen Shichong (16th to 17th century) and Chen Jiru（1558-1639)
Another highlight is a work by Shen Shichong entitled Landscapes and Poems, a set of ten album leaves in ink or ink and colour on paper, dated 1629 and estimated at HK$2,000,000 3,000,000 /US$260,000 390,000. Shen was a landscape painter and Chen Jiru, a calligrapher and artist from the Ming period, both of whom painted in the style of the Song Jiang School which used subtle colours and delicate imagery. With a harmonious combination of calligraphy, poetry and imagery of mountains and forests amid white space, this work radiates calmness.
Wen Peng (1498-1573)
Wen Peng, a Ming dynasty seal carver, calligrapher, poet and eldest son of Wen Zhengming, displayed his many talents across a wide range of artistic endeavours. He was a well-rounded calligrapher who excelled in the cursive script, among other forms. The work offered in this sale is a handscroll of ink on paper, dated 1552 and entitled Poems in Running Cursive Script (estimate: HK$1,500,000-2,000,000/US$194,000 260,000). Building on his fathers foundation, Wen developed the flow and stroke of the cursive script, adding his inner strength and individual character to this well-known calligraphic form. The current lot is presented in its entirety, in the original form, and promises to attract all lovers of fine calligraphy.
Chen Hongshou (1598-1652)
A native of Zhe Jiang province, Chen Hongshou was a painter and poet from the late Ming/early Qing dynasty. Known for his portraits of people, he was also well-versed in landscapes, flowers and birds. Based on a classical approach, he created his own style by adding bold, profound brushwork and precise colour. Well-known even in his own time, he had a lasting influence on future artists of this genre. In addition to renowned Chinese author Lu Xun being an avid collector of his works, museums worldwide have also collected his works. The current lot Appreciating the Flower (image right), a fan leaf in ink and colour on gold paper (estimate: HK$250,000 300,000/ US$33,000 39,000) - offers a rare opportunity for private collectors to acquire one of his exquisite works.
Fine Chinese Modern Paintings Sale
The sale of Fine Modern Chinese Paintings offers a broad spectrum of exceptional works by world-renowned artists such as Zhang Daqian, Qi Baishi, Xu Beihong, Yang Shanshen and Zhao Shaoang, each reflecting the artistic style of different schools such as Nanjing, Ling Nan and Shanghai schools, all of which made significant contributions to the development of modern Chinese painting.
Zhang Daqian (1899-1983)
Excelling in painting, calligraphy, and poetry, Zhang Daqian is certainly one of the greatest Chinese artists in the 20th century. Zhang spent his early years learning from and imitating ancient predecessors, which helped him to acquire a solid foundation in traditional landscape painting. Later in life he travelled extensively, combining gongbi and xieyi, whilst innovating his unique, signature splashed ink and colour technique, which created a whole new artistic style and vocabulary of his own.
This season, Christies offers a great work by Zhang, Verdant Mountains and Layered Peaks After Rain (estimate: HK$20,000,000 30,000,000 / US$2,600,000 3,900,000), created in splashed ink and colour, where the hues of green, blue, and black fuse together into one continuous visual form. Zhang painted houses and pavilions and turned the ink splashes to emulate the mood of a literati painting, creating a landscape where viewers can live and journey within it. The painting is dedicated to Mr. Xie Shoukang (1897-1973) and his wife Madam Xiayi. An influential academic, Xie occupied important positions including the former chairman of the humanities department at the National Central University and assistant drama professor at Columbia University. He was also active in diplomatic circles, having been the Chinese consul in Belgium and the Vatican.
Another highlight by Zhang is Gibbon (estimate: HK$7,000,000-9,000,000 /US$910,000-1,160,000), an ink and colour on paper scroll dated 1952. A lover of animals during his life, Zhang kept apes as pets, his fondness deepening as he grew older. In the present lot, the ape depicted in detail is a vivacious creature which comes to life through Zhangs brushstrokes. Hanging skillfully from a tree and looking straight into the eyes of the beholder, the ape bears a quizzical expression that shows the artists immense fondness for the subject matter.
Qi Baishi (1863-1957)
Qi Baishi, one of the greatest Chinese painters in the 20th century, is also one of the top-selling artists in this genre. Self-taught and known for painting birds and flowers, insects and grasses, figures and landscapes, Qi is recognized not only for his meticulous detailing and contemplative mood, but more importantly, for his unique style and subject matter that are fresh and spontaneous.
A key highlight is Cactus, a scroll of ink and colour on paper, estimated at HK$2,000,000- 3,000,000/US$260,000-390,000. Long-awaited by collectors, this work was previously in the hands of famed New York collector and dealer Alice Boney (1901-1988). Fresh, spontaneous and in turn whimsical and poignant, this work exemplifies the artists unique integration of everyday objects and living things with the aesthetics of simplicity and Nature. Painted in his sixties, the work reflects the artists gradual shift in subject matter from animal life to plant life.
Flowers and Insects, a hanging scroll of ink and colour on paper, is another highlight from the sale. Estimated at HK$7,000,000-9,000,000 /US$910,000-1,160,000, this lot was previously in the collection of Chinese artist Fang Junbi (1898 1986) and her husband Zeng Zhongming (1896 1939). Depicting the interaction between two living organisms (flowers and insects), the seemingly simple strokes draw the viewer to the concept of interaction between human beings and Nature.
Xu Beihong was one of the first Chinese artists who articulated that art needed to reflect the new China in the 20th century. He was also regarded as a pioneer who painted epic Chinese themes in a Western realistic style. Proficient in sketching, oil painting and traditional ink and brush paintings, Xu was a versatile artist who integrated Chinese ink and brush techniques with Western perspective, theories of composition and definition of form. As an artist and educator, he travelled extensively and exercised a profound influence on artists during and after his time.
Featured in this sale is Cattleya, a scroll in ink and colour on paper, dated 1939, and estimated at HK$2,500,000 3,500,000 /US$330,000 460,000. Depicting a species of orchid, the work shows a skilful play on light, colour and form, while the flower as a traditional Chinese metaphor of beauty and transience adds a deeper meaning and cultural relevance to the technical brilliance of the work.
Yang Shanshen (1913-2004)
Known as a key member of the Ling Nan School of artists with Guan Shanyue, Zhao Shaoang and Li Xiongcai, Yang Shanshen was renowned for his landscape, flower and bird and animal paintings. Fusing Chinese and Western elements, his works broke through the barriers of tradition in subject matter and style. In the present lot, his Twelve Animal Signs of the Chinese Zodiac, an album of thirteen leaves in ink and colour on paper, (estimate: HK$4,000,000-5,000,000/US$520,000-650,000) is a masterpiece in animal figure painting, whether it is depicting the raw power of a tiger or the naivety of a rabbit. The artists deliberate reduction of white space and non-traditional poses of the animals illustrate how he breaks the boundaries of traditional Chinese painting rules while keeping to the spirit of the ink and brush medium.
Zhao Shao ang (1905-1998)
A contemporary of Yang Shanshen and also of the Ling Nan School of artists, Zhao Shaoang also excelled in paintings of birds, flowers and animals. Continuing the tradition of Ling Nan artists of the previous generation, Zhaos works integrate Japanese and Western techniques with Chinese ones. The highlight in this sale is Dragon, a hanging scroll in ink and colour on paper, dated 1971 (estimate: HK$2,000,000-3,000,000/US$260,000-390,000). With raised talons, the dragon in the painting is at once elegant and ferocious, regal yet terrifying. On closer look, the forceful brushstrokes and use of washes show the artists skill and emotions when creating this mythical creature.