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Rare works from international private collections highlight Christie's Hong Kong sales
Lin Fengmian, Blue Lady. Estimate: HK$1.8-2.8 million/US$232,000-360,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2012.
HONG KONG.- Leading global auction house Christie’s will present exceptionally rare works from a wide range of international collectors at its upcoming Hong Kong Spring Sales of Fine Chinese Classical Paintings and Calligraphy and Fine Chinese Modern Paintings on 28 and 29 May, 2012 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. With more than 600 lots valued over HK$400 million (US$53 million), the sales will present superlative Chinese classical works by Ming master calligraphers and painters such as Dong Qichang, Bada Shanren, Wang Duo, Zhu Yunming, Chen Hongshou, Wu Li, Shao Mi and Zhang Reitu, and modern masterpieces by renowned artists such as Zhang Daqian, Qi Baishi, Xu Beihong, Lin Fengmian, Zhao Shao’ang and Fu Baoshi. Offering a wide spectrum of paintings and calligraphy that date from the Ming and Qing periods to the present day, and accentuated with private collections from Asia, Europe and the United States, the sales present an unrivalled opportunity for both new and experienced collectors to acquire Chinese paintings of exceptional value, rarity, provenance and quality.

“Thanks to our splendid sale results of Autumn 2011, we are continuing our mission of sourcing rare and superb works for our Spring Sales 2012, despite a prevalent uncertainty in the global economy.” said Ben Kong, International Specialist Head of Chinese Paintings at Christie’s Hong Kong. “As a result, both our Chinese Classical Paintings and Calligraphy sale and Chinese Modern Paintings sale showcase masterpieces and fresh-to-the-market oeuvres, many of which come from private collections in Asia, Europe and the Americas. From Dong Qichang to Bada Shanren, Qi Baishi to Zhang Daqian, we are proud to offer seasoned collectors and new buyers irresistible fine art originating from our long-standing Chinese culture and tradition.”

Two spectacular works
Fine Classical Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy
DONG QICHANG (董其昌)(1555-1636) Poems in Running Script Calligraphy

Dong Qichang (董其昌), courtesy name Xuanzai, was a Chinese painter, scholar, calligrapher, and art theorist during the late Ming period. Best known for his works during the later years of his life for his running and cursive scripts, Dong created his own style by fusing elements from Jin, Tang, Song and Yuan calligraphy. But instead of imitating them, he surpassed the old masters with a novel creativity that favoured expression over strict imitation of classical forms. Deeply influential, Dong established the “Dong school” of aesthetics, and his landscapes give unique spatial perspectives that are both refreshing and beautiful for the beholder.

Sourced from a North American Chinese private collection, this ink on paper handscroll entitled Poems in Running Script Calligraphy (estimate: HK$5-7million/ US$650,000-904,000) has a very good provenance. Featuring works by famed poet Li Bai, this handscroll was previously in the Imperial Qing court and was recorded in the collective works of Midian Zhulin Shiqu Baoji, vol. 1, p.539.

This piece exemplifies some of the landmark features of Dong’s calligraphy, from clear spatial composition, to the fluidity and inner strength of his brushstrokes to the variety of ink washes – all of which interact in wonderful ways to create characters that come to life with spirit and sensibility. Dong Qichang’s influence on calligraphy was unparalleled, and his works were particularly treasured and respected by Emperors Kangxi and Qianlong of the Qing dynasty.

Fine Modern Chinese Paintings
ZHANG DAQIAN (張大千) (1899-1983) Mist Clearing Over Pine Covered Peaks

The sale will also present outstanding works by world-renowned modern Chinese artist Zhang Daqian (張大千), whose originality, creativity and aesthetics remain inimitable.

A splendid work in the sale is Mist Clearing Over Pine Covered Peaks, a scroll in ink and colour on paper (estimate: HK$12-15 million/ US$1.543 -1.93 million). Created in the eighth month of jiyou year (1969), this work reflects the height of Zhang Daqian’s unique splashed ink technique which created a whole new way of deploying ink on paper. The resulting interplay of shades of black, grey, white and colour brings a surreal, luminous quality to the misty mountains, juxtaposed with meticulous details of pine and rocks. The scene exemplifies the artist’s incredible skill in creating landscapes that look effortless in its execution yet which exudes a deep sense of transcendence.

Artists’ highlights
Fine Classical Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy
SHAO MI (邵彌)(1594-1642) Landscapes after Old Masters

Shao Mi (邵彌) was a landscape painter, calligrapher, and poet during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), whose works were known for their pure taste and simplistic brushstrokes. The highlight here is an album of ten leaves in ink and ink and colour on silk - Landscapes after Old Masters (estimate: HK$800,000 – 1 million/ US$100,000-130,000). Skillfully playing with texture, space, light and strokes, Shao weaves together natural scenery and human habitation into a harmonious picture, evoking a sense of peace and quietude that so many painters of the time yearned for. The lightness of being and closeness to Nature equally resonates with present-day sentiments.

WANG DUO (王鐸)(1592-1652) Calligraphy in Cursive Script
Born in Mengjin, Henan Province in China, Wang Duo (王鐸) was a late-Ming government official. He was known for his legendary vigorous cursive script into which he added his own features to create a unique form. Together with his contemporary - renowned calligrapher Dong Qichang – the pair were known to each represent the Southern and Northern schools of landscape painting.

Featured in this sale is Wang’s ink on paper handscroll entitled Calligraphy in Cursive Script, estimated at HK$2-3 million/ US$260,000 – 390,000, which promises to be a draw for collectors. Reflecting flowing strokes that are restrained yet spirited, this work conveys Wang’s strength of character and profound emotions. A multitalented painter and calligrapher of great diversity, Wang’s refined yet powerful style greatly affected Chinese and Japanese calligraphy.

CHEN HONGSHOU (陳洪綬)(1598-1652) Fishing by River Wei
A native of Zhe Jiang province, Chen Hongshou (陳洪綬) was a famous painter and poet from the late Ming/early Qing dynasty whose use of bold brushwork and precise colour had a lasting influence on future artists. Known for his portraits of people, he was also well-versed in landscapes, flowers and birds.

From the Property of the Mo Gui Tang Collection comes this highlight entitled Fishing by River Wei, a hanging scroll in ink and colour on silk (estimate: HK$2-3 million/ US$260,000-390,000). The work is a rich tapestry of people in Nature, enjoying the leisurely pursuit of fishing. In a style that is at once polished yet natural, gallant yet refined, this painting is typical of Chen’s individualistic style, and is a work not to be missed.

WEN ZHENGMING (文徵明)(1470-1559) Running Streams from the Verdant Mountains
Wen Zhengming (文徵明), a painter-calligrapher and scholar who was equally skilled in poetry, calligraphy and paintings of landscape, human figures and Nature, was one of the famous group of four Ming artists, together with Shen Zhou (沈周), Qiu Ying (仇英) and Tang Yin (唐寅).

Wen’s Running Streams from the Verdant Mountains, a hanging scroll in ink on paper (estimate: HK$4.8-5.8 million/US$620,000-750,000) has a grandeur created by clearly delineated perspectives. From afar are layers upon layers of misty mountains, coming mid-way are imposing cliffs and sparkling streams, standing closer to the eye is a straw hut among rich vegetation. This work endows us with a sense of comfortable isolation and unity with Nature, at once elegant in its simplicity and sophisticated in its allegorical meaning.

Fine Modern Chinese Paintings
ZHANG DAQIAN (張大千)(1899-1983)Tibetan Dancer

In 1941, Zhang Daqian (張大千) travelled to Dun Huang in Western China to study the famed Buddhist cave murals. On the way in Kangsu and Qinghai provinces, he encountered Tibetan nomads for the first time and was deeply moved by their way of life. Inspired by the richness of Tibetan culture, he made many sketches to record what he saw. The expedition proved to be a creative breakthrough for Zhang, because when he returned in 1943, he developed a new style and reached the zenith of his mastery for figure paintings.

Executed in 1945, where he lodged in the Zhaojue Buddhist temple in Chengdu, Tibetan Dancer (estimate: HK$3-4 million/ US$386,000-515,000), is an excellent example of his new style where meticulous fine-line brushwork, rhythmic double lines and opulent colors are emphasised. Showing a dancer in a bright red costume with hands raised while dancing, the dress has multiple layers of colour, which gives a quality of thickness to the fabric. The red colour was mineral-based, similar to the art found in the Buddhist murals in Dun Huang. Sourced from a private American collection, this work shows the artist’s newfound sensibility and aesthetics in every detail from colours and shapes to details like faces, costumes and hairstyles. The artist’s Tibetan-themed works rarely depict well-defined profiles or sharp contrasts of heavily powdered skin and flaming red cheeks, making this painting particularly treasurable.

QI BAISHI (齊白石) (1863-1957) Pigeons and Apples
Qi Baishi (齊白石), one of the greatest Chinese painters in the 20th century, is recognized not only for his meticulous detailing and contemplative mood, but more importantly, for his deceptively effortless style and everyday subject matter that is fresh and spontaneous.

Pigeon is one of Qi’s favorite topics, and the highlight in this sale, Pigeons and Apples (estimate: HK$2-3 million/ US$258,000-386,000), certainly is one of his best works depicting animal figures. With seeming simplicity, he paints a pair of pigeons with red claws and a red beak; one seems to be gazing at the bright red apples and the other looking elsewhere. This scene draws us into a fleeting moment in time when we are at one and at peace with Nature.

XU BEIHONG (徐悲鴻)(1895-1953) Standing Horse
Xu Beihong (徐悲鴻) was regarded as a pioneer who painted Chinese subject matter with the techniques and perspectives of Western realism.

As a master in horse painting, Xu captured the spirit, vivacity and beauty of this graceful creature with a fusion of Western anatomy techniques and traditional Chinese painting skills in countless works depicting horses. In Standing Horse (estimate: HK$2-3 million/US$258,000-386,000), the artist fully utilises nuances of different ink washes and brushstroke variations to create a charming beast that is life-like yet mythical in its power. This painting comes from the Collection of General Zhang Fakui.

ZHAO SHAO’ANG (趙少昂) (1905-1998) Pheasants
A contemporary of Yang Shanshen and a prominent figure of the Ling Nan School of artists, Zhao Shao’ang excelled in paintings of birds, flowers and animals. His works are much sought after by both Chinese and international collectors.

Pheasants (estimate: HK$400,000-600,000/US$52,000-78,000) comes from the property of a Southeast Asian private collector. Though following in the tradition of the Ling Nan artists of the previous generation, Zhao further integrated Japanese and Western techniques with Chinese aesthetics. With a meticulous attention to the details of animal movement and plant life, the artist uses bright colours and delicate strokes to create a subtle and elegant depiction of twin birds and flowers.

Important private collections
Among the superlative highlights not to be missed are the works sourced from important private collectors in the U.S., Europe, Singapore and Hong Kong, many of whom are descendants of family members who knew the artists, or had acquired the works directly from the artists.

Fine Classical Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy PROPERTY OF A JAPANESE COLLECTOR HUANG DING (黃鼎)(1660-1730) Landscapes in Ancient Style
Huang Ding (黃鼎), courtesy name Zhuangu, was a landscape painter and poet active during the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911). Based on a classical and realistic style, his landscapes have powerful imagery that speaks to the beholder.

This sale will present a set of six hanging scrolls in ink and ink and colour on paper: Landscapes in Ancient Style (estimate: HK$1-1.5 million/ US$130,000 – 194,000). With sparkling streams interspersed between mountain ranges with lush greenery and curious rock formations, this work is enriched with details but comes across as clearly composed and holistic in its view.

PROPERTY OF A CHINESE COLLECTOR IN NORTH AMERICA
SHEN ZHOU (沈周)(1427-1509) Parrot and Apricot Blossoms

Shen Zhou (沈周) was a renowned Ming artist whose contributions to legitimizing the scholar-painter in art (integrating poetry, calligraphy and painting) were highly influential. His role in founding the Wu School of painting and in developing a modest, meditative style in painting scenes from Nature was also widely recognized as groundbreaking.

The hanging scroll in ink on paper entitled Parrot and Apricot Blossoms (estimate HK$800,000-1 million/ US$110,000-130,000) exemplifies the elegance and natural simplicity of his style. Under his brush, we are drawn to view the world through the eyes of the parrot. As such, the work fully integrates the artist with the art, and the audience with the artist’s sentiment.

Fine Modern Chinese Paintings
RARE AND IMPORTANT PAINTINGS FROM THE NOHARA COLLECTION
QI BAISHI (齊白石)(1863-1957)Waterfall in Dinghu

Waterfall in Dinghu (estimate: HK$6-8 million/ US$772,000-1.03 million) is a seminal work by Qi Baishi (齊白石), from the private collection of renowned Japanese collector Daisuke Nohara. Born in 1882 in Nagano, Japan, Nohara graduated from the University of Kyoto and worked at the Yokohama Specie Bank. During his posting in China from 1921 to 1927, he lived in Tianjin, Beijing, Qingdao, Harbin and Shanghai, and in 1934 returned to the Yokohama Specie Bank in Japan until the outbreak of the Second World War.

Qi Baishi created this hanging scroll in 1925 for Mr. Nohara. In 1906 when the artist toured Dinghu in Zhaoxing, Southern China with his friend Guo Baosheng, he was deeply moved by the grandeur of the waterfall there, which was like a screen of silver shimmering in the sunlight. The sight was so impressive that he immediately recorded the scene with drawings, from which this exquisite work was created years after. This painting shows the brilliant manipulation of light and darkness, white space and content, and different adaptations and intensity of brushstrokes and ink washes. Under his hand, the grandeur of the landscape is infused with a sense of boundlessness that reflects Nature in its infinite variety.

PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT SOUTHEAST ASIAN PRIVATE COLLECTOR
XU BEIHONG (徐悲鴻)(1895-1953) Plum Blossoms

Proficient in sketching, oil painting and traditional ink and brush paintings, Xu was a versatile artist who integrated traditional Chinese ink and brush techniques with Western perspectives, theories of composition and definition of form.

Plum Blossoms (estimate: HK$2-3 million/US$258,000-386,000) is a prime example of this artistic fusion of East and West. During the war against Japan in the 1940s, the plum blossom represented persistence and was frequently praised in song as the invincible national spirit of China. In this work, the vitality of a white plum blossom in full bloom is unmistakable. The flower was not a frequent subject matter in the artist’s repertoire, making this an even rare work. This painting was dated 1941 when the artist was inspired by the purity of white plum blossoms when he went to Ipoh, Malaysia. The painting was given as a gift to his friend Zhuang Youzhao.

PROPERTY OF A EUROPEAN PRIVATE COLLECTOR
LIN FENGMIAN (林風眠)(1900–1991)Blue Lady

The art of Lin Fengmian (林風眠) is one whose appeal crosses the boundaries of language, culture, and race with its reinterpretation of Chinese artistic traditions combined with Western techniques and media.

His Blue Lady (estimate: HK$1.8-2.8 million/US$232,000-360,000) – an ink and colour scroll, mounted and framed – comes from a private European collector, who acquired the work directly from the artist in Shanghai in the 1950s. In this work, a sense of subtle elegance and charm is evoked by a lady with a disarming smile. Imbued in pleasing hues, the artist’s unique expression of the human figure is seen in his fusion of stylistic elements and perspectives of modern portraiture from Western art with the fluid brushstroke and creative use of ink washes in Chinese paintings.

YOU MOJUN’S COLLECTION OF CALLIGRAPHY BY HONG YI
HONG YI (弘一)(1880-1942) Calligraphy

Master Hong Yi (弘一), also named Li Shutong, was a Renaissance man in modern Chinese cultural history. Equally skilled in music, calligraphy, poetry, painting and drama, he was revered not only as a Buddhist monk, but also for his multiple talents and his work in promoting classical calligraphy. Admired by cultural icons of the time including authors Lu Xun and Guo Moruo, Hong was an influential figure in almost all facets of cultural development in China during his lifetime.

Hong’s scroll in ink on paper Calligraphy (estimate: HK$700,000-900,000/US$90,000-116,000) comes from famed collector You Mojun’s private collection of calligraphy by Hong Yi. Although the work contains only four characters “無上清涼,” loosely translated as supreme coolness, the semantic and artist expression of this phrase exudes a peace and tranquility that symbolizes spiritual cleansing and transcendence from earthly life – a sentiment that is very much in line with Hong’s Buddhist belief and quest for divine existence.



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