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Sotheby's Hong Kong to present Fine Chinese Paintings Autumn Sale on 8 October
Xie Zhiliu’s Lotus Pond, 1942. Est: HK$3–5 million/US$385,000–641,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Hong Kong will present its Fine Chinese Paintings Autumn Sale 2012 on 8 October at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The auction will feature 325 lots amassed from around the world estimated approximately at HK$170 million / US$21.8 million*. Amongst them are a number of charmingly exquisite pieces from prestigious private collections that are hard to come by.

Alongside the auction, Sotheby’s Hong Kong is most privileged to be commissioned once again by You Yi Tang to hold a special exhibition of Zhang Daqian’s paintings and calligraphy - A Testament of Friendship - Zhang Daqian Paintings and Calligraphy from the Collection of You Yi Tang. This second exhibition will star a spectacular ensemble of approximately 100 exclusive pieces by Zhang from this noted collection from Hong Kong, not least paintings that the artist dedicated to his close family and friends. Not only is this a realisation of the painter’s artistic legacy and feats, it is also a testament of his profound friendship with many celebrated individuals from different backgrounds and periods.

C.K. Cheung, Head of Sotheby's Fine Chinese Paintings Department, said: “Sotheby’s has always been renowned for our unrivalled global network and exceptional reputation, which has won us the trust and substantial support of discerning collectors worldwide. Our distinctive advantages enable us to source many works of exceptional provenance from private collections overseas around the world, especially significant for their abundance and prominence this Autumn. Headlining the sale are Fu Baoshi’s Landscape after Shitao and Lady at the Pavilion, and salient works by Lin Fengmian from a North American collection, all fresh to the market. Another highlight is a series of lotus-themed works curated from a number of private collections: with such a comprehensive range on show, the diverse perspectives and interpretations on such a well-celebrated leitmotif in Chinese art is sure to come into full play.

Also worthy of note are the remarkable examples of the Lingnan School of Painting this season, both in quality and quantity. We are delighted to present many of the mid-period works by Zhao Shao’ang, including paintings executed in the early 1950s when the artist was preparing for an exhibition in Southeast Asia. The works combine sound perspective with unique composition, embracing an idiosyncratic style that dates back to the period of Zhao’s artistic maturity. We are also honoured to have assembled paintings executed in the 1940s by Yang Shanshen, as well as early works by Guan Shanyue that are both not to be missed.”

Zhang Daqian’s horse-riding paintings are noted for a brush style reminiscent of similar works from the Tang dynasty. Only a rare handful of the era’s original paintings have survived the times. Nowadays their stylistic influence is mostly evident in the imitative copies created by the subsequent generations of artists including Zhao Mengfu of the Yuan dynasty. Riding in the Autumn Countryside (Est: HK$8.8 – 12.8 million / US$1.1 – 1.6 million) was painted in close reference to one of Zhao’s works, steeped in Tang-era painting style. Despite this, Zhang’s inclusion of intricate background details has endowed this painting with great originality. The same richness of detail also informs his depiction of the horse saddle, the reins and saddle cloth – even though the portrayal of both horse-rider and steed remains faithful to Zhao’s version. Overlapping layers of mineral paint are skilfully applied to capture these details, resurrecting the splendour of a once-glorious empire. Zhang also provides a multi-textured rendering of an undulating ground surface in the backdrop, one that is filled with cracks, rather than flatness of terrain.

Executed in 1950, the painting marked the zenith of Zhang’s mastery of the traditional style of fine delicate brushwork (gongbi technique). At the time, he had taken up temporary abode in Darjeeling in India. Though this composition is based on a pre-existing work, it is evident that Zhang has far surpassed his predecessor in technique. Besides bearing the painter’s inimitable style, it also demonstrates his intuitive understanding of how the ancient masters approached the equine theme in their works.

Adept at fusing art with Tang-dynasty poetry, Fu Baoshi drew inspiration from a poem by the Tang scholar Liu Yushi in creating Lady At the Pavilion (Est: HK$6 – 8 million / US$770,000 – 1 million). Neither the poem nor its title is cited in this painting, but it remains closely akin to Liu’s poem in spirit. The pensive mood of Fu’s work is evoked through a delineation of the protagonist’s facial expression, the backdrop and other details. The subject is a court lady, who, having applied fresh makeup, leans against a pillar in an empty pavilion, as though waiting for her beloved to appear. A dragonfly hovers near her hoping to land on her jade hairpin, conveying an even deeper sense of loneliness. This serves as an apt metaphor for Fu’s feeling neglected for his patriotic feelings when he executed this painting in 1945 towards the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War. Under the circumstances, Fu was wavering between hope and uncertainty thus created many paintings of such kind.

The composition of the present lot is completely in line with the theme it seeks to address. Every aspect is well thought through, right down to the smallest detail, such as the dragonfly, which adds life to the setting. Delicate brushstrokes and vibrant colours are employed to flesh out the lady’s demeanour and her makeup. Looming in the distant background are high architectural structures, rendered in lighter shades of colour, to illustrate the vast spaciousness and, hence, the desolation within the palace’s confines.

Lin Fengmian Paintings from an American Private Collection
Featured in this private collection are three paintings by Lin Fengmian, including Four Beauties, Seated Lady in the Garden and Cockscomb (Est: HK$1.2 – 1.8 million / US$154,000 – 240,000) all of which were acquired by the owner in Shanghai during the 1960s. Probably created from the late fifties to the early sixties, these works convey a refreshing style. Each of them is endorsed with the artist’s pen signature, Lin Fong Ming, in English on the back and preserved in its original mounting and frame.

A Selction Of Lotus-theme Paintings
Lotus-themed paintings are one of the auction highlights this autumn. Since the ancient times, Chinese poets and artists have been fond of eulogising lotuses in their paintings. In the upcoming sale, Sotheby’s has put in place an assemblage of lotus-themed works by modern Chinese artists, including Lin Fengmian’s White Lotuses, Xie Zhiliu’s Lotus Pond and a prized painting of Zhang Daqian from a European private collection, Budding Lotus. Collectively, these lots display diverse painterly styles and interpretations of the same subject by different schools.

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Xie Zhiliu served as secretary to Yu Youren who headed the Control Yuan of the Republic of China in Chongqing. Executed in 1942, Lotus Pond (Est. HK$3 – 5 million / US$385,000 – 641,000) was presented as a gift to Yu’s eldest son Wangde and his wife. Lotus Pond connotes the meaning of “jia ou” or “fine lotus”, which also sounds like “a fine couple” in Chinese. In his early years, Xie studied and followed the aesthetic style of Ming-dynasty artist Chen Hongshou. Magnificent in vision and technique, the current work offers an extraordinary display of lotuses interspersed with craggy rocks, which are partially concealed by the green foliage. Painted in contrasting red and white, the lotus blooms are huddled together like a couple locked in conjugal bliss. The painting’s execution on a large, horizontal scroll is rare among Xie’s other works.

Zhang Daqian was educated in Japan during his early years, and since then he returned there on repeated visits. After emigrating abroad from China, he often stopped over in Japan for brief sojourns. A lotus lover, Zhang had undertaken special trips to admire the flowers in various scenic locations across the country. In 1964, the beauty of a lotus pond he chanced upon at Kamakura city in Kanagawa Prefecture left him deeply impressed. Following his return to his home in Brazil, he completed Budding Lotus (Est: HK$4 – 6 million / US$520,000 – 770,000) later in the year. Adopting a close-up perspective, the painting has its main focus placed on the large, green lotus leaves while the flowers and buds, painted in light pink, are revealed only in glimpses. In addition, Zhang’s impeccable colour choice, coupled with his execution of the painting on a special babao silk scroll with faint stripes, contribute to the elegance and purity of the lotuses depicted.

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