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Sotheby's Hong Kong announces highlights from its Fine Chinese Paintings Autumn Sale
Zhang Daqian, Portrait of Guanyin from Dunhuang Fresco, 1943. Ink and colour on silk, framed, 189 by 86 cm. Estimate: HK$ 12,000,000-18,000,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.

HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Fine Chinese Paintings Autumn Sale on 2 October 2018 will feature approximately 270 exquisite modern Chinese ink paintings, with a combined estimate in excess of HK$230 million*. The sale is led by two monumental figure paintings by Zhang Daqian from very different periods in his career: the splashed-ink-and-colour Self Portrait with a Tibetan Mastiff, and Portrait of Guanyin from Dunhuang Fresco in Gongbi brushwork style. Further highlights include a landscape masterpiece by Fu Baoshi from the 1940s, Wu Guanzhong’s old Hong Kong croquis, Wing On Street - Cloth Alley and Li Keran’s Kunlun Mountains, annotated by Chairman Mao Zedong’s poetry.

Carmen Ip, Acting Head of Department, Fine Chinese Paintings, Sotheby’s Asia, comments, “This season, we are pleased to bring together works of artistic significance by modern Chinese artists. Many boast impeccable provenance, several are fresh-to-the-market. Headlining the sale are two figure paintings by Zhang Daqian: Portrait of Guanyin from Dunhuang Fresco, a rare example remaining in private hands, and Self Portrait with a Tibetan Mastiff, a splashed ink and colour seminal self-portrait by the artist.

Complementing these are works which touch upon themes of modern society, such as Wu Guanzhong’s Old Hong Kong Croquis, Wing On Street - Cloth Alley, Fu Baoshi’s ground-breaking ink rendering, Grandeur of Coal Capital and Li Keran’s Kunlun Mountains, annotated by Chairman Mao Zedong’s poetry. Not only do these paintings carry significant historical connotations, they also demonstrate feats of exemplary artistic achievement.”


From an Important Asian Private Collection Zhang Daqian Self Portrait with a Tibetan Mastiff Splashed ink and colour on gold paper, framed 176 by 96 cm Estimate upon request

Self-portraiture is an important and recurring theme in Zhang Daqian’s paintings. Measuring 6 foot in height, Self Portrait with a Tibetan Mastiff depicts the artist garbed in robes, with a scroll in hand. Beside him is a strapping Tibetan Mastiff sporting dense black fur, both fine and lush in texture. The background of the composition is filled with rich and thickly impastoed blue ink splashes of varying gradation, forming a kaleidoscopic shimmer which serves as a stark contrast to the jet black fur of the dog, against the gold paper background. The painting remained with Zhang Daqian throughout his life.

From An Important Asian Private Collection Zhang Daqian Portrait of Guanyin from Dunhuang Fresco 1943, Ink and colour on silk, framed, 189 by 86 cm Estimate: HK$ 12,000,000-18,000,000
In 1941, Zhang Daqian travelled to Dunhuang to study Buddhist mural paintings at the famed Mogao Caves, where they stayed for approximately two years. Portrait of Guanyin from Dunhuang Fresco was created in the early summer of 1943 as a gift to Gu Zhenglun, the Chairman of Gansu provincial government of the time, and his wife.

The painting is a fresco copy of the Bodhisattva in Mogao Cave number 277. A gentle kindness is conveyed through the Bodhisattva’s solemn disposition while the torso is thickly impastoed with mineral-based pigments in a manner that is reminiscent of the ornate splendor of the Tang Dynasty. Besides those kept in the National Palace Museum of Taipei and the Sichuan Museum, the present painting is one of the few examples of Zhang’s fresco painting remaining in private hands.

From the M K Lau Collection Fu Baoshi Grandeur of Coal Capital 1961, Ink and colour on paper, framed, 28 by 84 cm Estimate: HK$ 12,000,000-18,000,000
In June, 1961, Fu Baoshi travelled to the North East of China for a plein air painting tour, and Grandeur of Coal Capital was created during his visit to the coal capital Fushun. Moved by the extraordinary sight of several hundred thousands of workers in the open coal mines, drenched in smog and with dust in the air, the artist was inspired to depict this magnificent scene. The coal fields are portrayed in densely layered ink, incorporating details such as factories, chimneys, and utility poles. Fu Baoshi only created two paintings with this subject matter -- the current work, which was once part of the M K Lau Collection, has been extensively exhibited and catalogued; the other work was donated to the Nanjing Museum by the artist’s family.

Wu Guanzhong Wing On Street - Cloth Alley 1990, Ink and colour on paper, framed, 53.3 by 47.7 cm Estimate: HK$ 1,000,000-1,500,000
In November 1990, Wu Guanzhong was invited by Land Development Corporation to visit Hong Kong for a painting trip. Created during this trip, Wing On Street - Cloth Alley depicts Wing On Street of Hong Kong, which was originally an alley which connects Queen’s Road Central and Des Voeux Road Central. It gained prominence at the turn of the century for fabric shops, hence its nickname “Cloth Alley”. The alley was dismantled in the 1990s due to urban restructuring. The painting depicts a corner of the original neighborhood with clever usage of color dots and stripes, showing the hustle and bustle of the zigzagging old alley, with copious signage in English and Chinese above, epitomising the fusing of East and West characteristic of Hong Kong. Beyond the blue and white striped canopy are towering skyscrapers emerging amongst the sprawling rooftops of old buildings, bringing to life the city’s bridging of old and new.

From the M K Lau Collection Li Keran Kunlun Mountains 1965, Ink and colour on paper, hanging scroll, 66.6 by 48 cm Estimate: HK$ 15,000,000-20,000,000
Kunlun Mountains is inspired by Chairman Mao Zedong’s poetry of the Kunlun Mountains, delineating the steep and staggering terrain of the imposing landscape which dominates the entire painting surface. Meandering wisps of clouds travel through the painting, with the Kunlun Mountains towering over the streams and woodland at its feet. The composition portrays a magnificent landscape, accompanied by the unabridged literary work of Chairman Mao Zedong, composed in the 1930s.. The work is especially noteworthy for its unique literary and visual properties, which allowed it to rise from the shackles of political propaganda and stand as an individual work of art in its own right.

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