HONG KONG.-Following the success of the 2007 Autumn sale of Fine Chinese paintings, Sothebys Hong Kong continues to showcase the best of Chinese classical and modern paintings sourced from various collectors in Europe. Celebrated works by Zhang Daqian, Fu Baoshi, Li Keran, Xu Beihong and many more will feature alongside works from the mid-Ming to the beginning of the Qing dynasty. Over 260 lots are valued at an estimated total of nearly HK$90 million.
C. K. Cheung, Head of Chinese Paintings, Sothebys China and Southeast Asia, said, We have sourced a selection of important works by celebrated 20th century Chinese painting masters from various collectors in Europe including a private collection of Fu Baoshi from France, a European collection of four late works by Qi Baishi, a Southeast Asian private collection of Xu Beihong as well as a private collection of Huang Junbi. We have also gathered two spectacular works by Zhang Daqian executed in different stages in his artistic career, namely Recluse in the Spring Mountain and Cross-Island Highway, Taiwan. Also on offer is a Southeast Asian collection of nine paintings by Lin Fengmian executed in different periods on various subject matters. As for Antique Chinese classical paintings, the selection spans from mid-Ming to early-Qing dynasties including Plum Blossom and Bamboo; Poems in Xingshu by Wen Zhengming, Landscape after Wang Meng by Wu Li, Landscape of Sichuan by Xie Shichen, Landscape After Ancient Masters by Huang Ding, etc.
Cross-Island Highway, Taiwan is a magnificent splashed ink and colour on paper work by Zhang Daqian (est. HK$4-6 million). Considered to be one of the most representative splashed ink and colour on paper paintings in Zhangs later artistic career, the present lot depicts Cross-Island Highway, an impressive piece of infrastructure built in Taiwan in the 1950s, and one of Zhangs favourite subject matters. This large-scale painting was executed circa 1964-65 when Zhangs splashed coloured ink technique had become so well developed that he was able to produce large works of 4 or 6 feet.
Zhang first visited the Cross-Island Highway at its 1959 opening, and was henceforth a frequent visitor to the scenic spot. The magnificent panorama portrayed in the present lot, is a testament to nature, while the pseudo-abstract rendering of small huts, old woods and a scholar is reminiscent of the Chinese scholarly tradition. Zhangs painting style of this period is further demonstrated by his powerful and unconstrained brushstrokes and infrequent use of the traditional stroke texture technique.
Another exquisite painting by Zhang Daqian is Recluse in the Spring Mountain (est. HK$2.5-3.5 million). Zhang is known for his enthusiastic imitations of ancient masterpieces, enabling him to incorporate techniques from these great works. The present lot is an emulation of a masterpiece of the same name by Wang Meng, a master of ink painting of Yuan dynasty, and is considered to be the best imitation Zhang ever accomplished. Executed in 1947, this Recluse in the Spring Mountain is the third imitation of the painting by Zhang who had, since 1937, been meticulously emulating Wangs innovative and detailed brushstrokes. By his third attempt, Zhang thoroughly understood Wangs painting and fully grasped the great masters techniques. By taking greater liberty with the composition of the original painting, Zhang inserted more human figures in this third version, imbuing the figures with new identities and importance and adding richness to the simple and elegant ambience. Lines are intersected in a controlled manner, and the carefully rendered landscape, huts, figures, trees and other features help develop a spiritual ambiance.
Another intriguing painting on offer is Fu Baoshis Portrait (est. HK$400,000-$600,000). In 1947, Fu painted a portrait of a French Diplomat called Tian Youren (transliterated from his French surname; alias Tian Lou). Unlike most of his portraits of fictional characters and imaginary historical figures, it was rare of Fu to paint a portrait of a real life person. In this work Tian Lou is clearly a foreigner, this is evident from his features, but his attire is that of a traditional Chinese hanfu. He appears as an intellectual, deep in thought under a pine tree. The unconventional conjunction of east and west is not evident in any of Fus other works. The crossover is also demonstrated in Fus scrupulous choice of a Chinese name for Tian Lou which sounded close to his name, and was also a title traditionally used only by intellectuals. The great master saw Tian not only as a connoisseur, but as a person he truly respected.
Li Kerans Twin Waterfalls (est. 3-5 million) was executed in 1988, one year before he died, and evokes the beauty of E Wei Mountain in China. It was scripted once painted here which refers to the period when Li painted the Qing Yin Court on E Wei in 1956, the first time during his painting excursion. The present lot demonstrates a more developed, sophisticated style and technique rather absent from his 1950s piece depicting the same scenery. The panoramic view includes Qing Yin Court and the surroundings, with waterfalls, pavilions, courts and bridges on both sides. The deliberately composed layers of features contribute to the very poetic ambience of Chinese painting. A westernized treatment of light and shadow is apparent in the thick layering of ink and contrasting light green ink.
A selection of antique Chinese classical paintings will be on offer including Landscape After Wang Meng by Wu Li (est. HK$3.8-5 million). Executed in the 15th year of Kangxi (circa 1676), this painting was accomplished during the height of Wus artistic career. He apprenticed initially to such masters as Wang Jian and Wang Shi Min but Wang Meng, a master of ink painting of Yuan dynasty, influenced him most as seen in the present lot. It delivers the most sophisticated composition and layering the treatment of the longwinded landscape is vibrant yet poised while the painting looks rich yet well-structured. Wus brushstrokes are delicate, natural and diverse and his skilful application of ink contributes to the proper light and shadow amongst the tree, rocks and houses as well as the foreground and the back. Wen Zhengmings Plum Blossom and Bamboo; Poems in Xingshu (est. HK$1.6-2 million) is a noble combination of a painting of bamboo and a calligraphy piece of Mid-autumn Festival poems. This ink on Song Sutra Paper handscroll reads various artistic styles and paper sizes, together which demonstrate that the contents of these pieces were executed by Wen in different periods of time. Boasting sound provenance, the painting part of the handscroll was owned by such renowned collectors from 17th to 19th centuries as Liang Jiaolin, Chen Changji and Di Xuegeng, and later by Tan Jing, an important Cantonese collector, in 1940s. As for the calligraphy part, the three sheets of paper are meticulously mounted while the fine placement of the painting and poems makes the handscroll an ultimate perfection a magnificent handscroll comprising poems, calligraphy and painting in one was mounted 400 years after Wens death.