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Christie's Hong Kong presents Classical Paintings and Calligraphy Spring Auctions 2014
Wu Guanzhong, Bamboos, 1996. Estimates: HK$12,000,000–15,000,000/ US$1,560,000–1,950,000). Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2014.

HONG KONG.- Christie's Hong Kong Fine Chinese Classical Paintings and Calligraphy auction and Fine Chinese Modern Paintings auction will take place on 26th and 27th May 2014. Featuring more than 750 works from the classical and modern masters, the 2-day sales are estimated to realize in excess of HK$311 million/ US$39 million.

A Chinese contemporary ink private sale exhibition will be held during the auction week at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and then afterwards at the James Christie Room.

For classical paintings, Christie's will offer a rare work from the Qing master Bada Shanren, Landscape, as well as an exquisite hanging scroll, Two Ladies, by the renowned figure painter Chen Hongshou.

Born Zhu Da, Bada Shanren was a ninth-generation descendant of the Ming-dynasty prince Zhu Quan. After the fall of the Ming dynasty, he became a Buddhist monk and adopted the pseudonym Bada Shanren, which he kept until the end of his life. Known as one of the “Four Monks” of the early Qing period, Bada Shanren painted Landscape, a rare example of the subject for him, with the mind-set of a former subject abandoned by the defunct Ming empire. Despite being influenced by Dong Qichang's elegant landscapes, he painted desolate mountains and rivers to present a world he saw as broken and probably to express sorrow over the death of the country to which he belonged (Estimates: HK$3,000,000–5,000,000/ US$390,000–650,000).

Another iconic figure in the late Ming period was Chen Hongshou. His works, including Two Ladies, exemplify the lifestyle, thoughts and taste of contemporary scholars, and are especially sought after by today's collectors. The sense of elegance and serenity is accentuated by soft and delicate lines, which also highlight the graceful movements of the court ladies as well as the inner feelings of the artist (Estimates: HK$8,000,000–10,000,000/ US$1,100,000–1,300,000).

In Modern paintings, we are entrusted to offer a number of important works by the modern master, Wu Guanzhong, including Bamboos, Banyan and the Sea, Weeds in a Pond and A Village of Bridges. In addition, while Lady by Zhang Daqian stands out for its incomparable beauty and elegance, Lake of Five Pavilions by the same master, exemplifies the grandeur and re- interpretation of Chinese landscape painting, testifying to the genius and the evolution of the artist's career. Other highlights of both Classical and Modern Paintings sales include Calligraphy by Jin Nong, Going to School by Qi Baishi and A Hundred Monkeys by Pu Ru.

In the 1990s Wu Guanzhong started to explore abstraction. Painted in 1996, Bamboos is a representative and sizeable work of this period. Wu employs both oil and ink to explore a subject matter and to identify the best medium of expression. This painting comprises vigorous straight lines in ink to render the luxuriance and tallness of bamboo, the form and texture of which cannot be fully expressed if it were painted in oil. The dots, lines and planes found in the composition testify to the shift from realistic painting to a more abstract style of artistic expression (Estimates: HK$12,000,000–15,000,000/ US$1,560,000–1,950,000).

A prolific and talented artist, Zhang Daqian excelled in all genres. He first made a name for himself with his portraits of beauties, a subject throughout his career, and was nicknamed Zhang Meiren, or „Zhang the Painter of Beauties‟. A small work, the subject of Lady has part of her face covered by her arm holding her hair. Her look and graceful posture tell us that she should be a well-educated and elegant lady. The inscription notes that it is dedicated to the translator of Six Records of a Floating Life by Shen Fu, and Zhang was probably inspired to paint this lady based on the female character of the book, Shen Fu's wife - Chen Yun (Estimates: HK$800,000–1,000,000/ US$104,000- 130,000).

One of the highlights of the season will be the continuing the sale of more than 150 important Chinese paintings which were formerly in the collection of Dr. K. S. Lo, the founder of Vitasoy and a prominent Chinese antiques collector. The works include Pine and Rock by Shitao, Cows Grazing by Xu Beihong and Fish by Huang Yongyu.

Shitao painted Pine and Rock when he was becoming old, but the vigorous and confident brushwork shows no signs of ageing or frailty. He paints the rocks and mountains using the sides of brushes filled with ink in distinct shades. The right and the middle sections of the work display rolling rocks, cliffs and mountains, all intricately portrayed and mostly tilting to the left. Although no space is left for the sky or the ground, the composition feels neither crowded nor constrained. Among the mountains are seas of rustling pines and swirling mist, which imbue the painting with a sense of motion. A river, whose source is hidden deep in the background, flows through the towering cliffs to the foreground, accentuating the sense of distance. The mountains appear gentler as they reach the shore in the left hand section. On the horizon, water is connected to a lofty and boundless sky. Pine and Rock is an outstanding piece by Shitao from his later years (Estimates: HK$5,000,000- 7,000,000/ US$650,000-910,000).

Chinese contemporary ink is a re-interpretation of a millennium old art form. Full of energy and creativity, these ink paintings are a witness to the development of modern China and the diaspora of the Chinese people in the past three decades.

This selling exhibition uses 55 works to explore the way artists make their ink paintings relevant to modernity, multiculturalism, and technology. Represented are 19 leading Chinese artists who are well-known in China and abroad.

These paintings, which vary from a small fan leaf to a six-metre work on paper mounted on canvas, will testify to the versatility of a medium that was once-considered conservative. While in the past Chinese ink painting was often considered something to be appreciated in an intimate setting, now it has much wider appreciation and a wider public audience.

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