Christie’s Hong Kong Classical and Modern Chinese Paintings Auction

Christie’s Hong Kong will hold its Fall sales of Fine Chinese Modern Paintings and Fine Chinese Classical Paintings and Calligraphy on 30 November at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre. These sales will showcase over 350 rare and exceptional works from the Chinese masters, valued in excess of HK$260 million (US$34 million).

Chinese calligraphy and paintings are among the most culturally rich and meaningful art forms and encapsulate the history of Chinese culture. The Fine Chinese Classical Paintings and Calligraphy sale will feature important works by artists spanning both Ming and Qing Dynasty (15th-19th Century), including Ming Dynasty calligraphers and painters such as Wang Duo, Ni Yuanlu, Huang Daozhou and Lan Ying, as well as important Qing artists such as BaDa ShanRen, Hua Yan and Yuan Jiang. The Fine Chinese Modern Paintings sale will present a body of magnificent works by renowned 19th and 20th Century masters such as Qi Baishi, Xu Beihong, Fu Baoshi, Zhang Daqian, and Lin Fengmian. Showcasing a wide range of works by artists of different styles and schools, these sales cater to the variety of diverse palettes of today’s discerning collectors.

Fine Chinese Classical Paintings and Calligraphy
30 November 2010, 10.30am
Christie’s Fall sale of Fine Chinese Classical Paintings and Calligraphy presents a wide range of works from the most important ink and brush painters of the 15th to 19th centuries, spanning both the Ming and Qing dynasties.

BADA SHANREN (1626-1705)
A highlight of this season is an important work with impeccable provenance by one of Qing dynasty’s most influential painter, Bada Shanren. Also known as Zhu Da, he was a prince of the Ming dynasty who became a monk under Qing’s rule. Zhu Da later abandoned his monastic life and developed a career as a professional painter, adopting a series of descriptive pseudonyms, most notably Bada Shanren by which he is most often known today. His paintings feature sharp brush strokes which are attributed to the sideways manner by which he held his brush. Leading the season’s offerings is Pine and Lingzhi (estimate: HK$4,000,000 – 5,000,000/ US$516,100 – 645,200). Depicting the symbols of longevity and wisdom (Pine and Lingzhi) in his signature slanting brushstrokes and in a somewhat purposely exaggerated manner, this work underscores the artist’s independent spirit and his deliberate departure from the popular style of the time. His adept use of ink, with all its nuances, creates a contrast between black and white, real and imaginary, light and shade. Together with powerful strokes, his technique contributes to a depth and brilliance to the painting, resulting in a truly important piece that is not to be missed.

WANG DUO (1592-1652), NI YUANLU (1593 -1644), HUANG DAOZHOU (1585-1646)
Chinese calligraphy dates back to the dawn of China’s recorded history and served as a major vehicle of expression for the literati. Embodying the scholar’s vision, skill, and knowledge, it also represented his moral character and discipline. Notable lots for this sale include one exceptional running script and two magnificent cursive script calligraphy pieces by renowned scholars of the Ming dynasty: Wang Duo (1592-1652), Ni Yuanlu (1593-1644) and Huang Daozhou (1585-1646).

Wang Duo, also called “Wang Mengjin” was renowned for his reputation as “Magic Pen Wang Duo”. The famous calligrapher of late Ming and early Qing dynasty, he was skilled at various styles of calligraphy and his strong, vigorous strokes were the essence of the “old school” style while keeping his individual characteristics. In Calligraphy in Running Script (estimate: HK$1,200,000 – 1,500,000/ US$154,800 – 193,500), Wang Duo combines the essence of calligraphic art throughout the ages with his own creative style. With great elegance and vitality yet with a remarkably steady rhythm, his script exudes the grandeur typical during the height of calligraphic art development. Wang Duo’s calligraphy greatly influenced the development of the Chinese calligraphy as well as even the overseas calligraphy field, especially that in Japan, and this piece of running script calligraphy is set to be among the most sought-after this season.

Ni Yuanlu and Huang Daozhou are two of the most renowned calligraphers in late Ming dynasty (early to mid-17th century). At this twilight of the Ming court’s rule, like many other patriotic officials living in tumultuous times, Ni and Huang vented their ambition and frustration through the art of calligraphy. Notable lots for this sale include two magnificent cursive script calligraphy pieces: Ni Yuanlu’s Calligraphy in Cursive Script (estimate: HK$800,000 – 1,000,000/ US$103,200 – 129,000) and Huang Daozhou’s Calligraphy in Cursive Script (estimate: HK$600,000 – 800,000/ US$77,400 – 103,200). Both works reflect the distinct personality of these renowned calligraphers with their free and extraordinary style.

LAN YING (1584–AFTER 1664)
Lan Ying is one of the famous painters of the late Zhe Jiang School and is renowned for his landscape masterpieces, which drew inspiration from the Song and Yuan dynasties. Leading the selection is a particularly significant work from the artist: Landscape in the Style of Zhao Mengfu (estimate:HK$800,000 – 1,000,000/US$103,200 – 129,000), a work that demonstrates his skilled drawing technique, meticulous details and elegant artistic style though his vigorous brushstrokes, and his dense yet delicate lines.

HUA YAN (1682-1756)
Hua Yan is one of the most important members of the “Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou” and was renowned for his innovative mixture of meticulous method and freestyle brushwork. Although famous for his flower and bird paintings, his landscapes demonstrate his masterful brushwork. This sale will present Autumn Stroll (estimate: HK$800,000 – 1,000,000/ US$103,200 – 129,000), a work in which the artist’s strong, spirited strokes depicting the rich texture of the mountains and rocks contrast with the relaxed expressions of the scene’s chatting literati.

Architectural paintings (Jiehua) depicting buildings, vessels and vehicles as the primary thematic materials have been an important segment in Chinese painting since the Tang dynasty (7-10th century). The jiehua discipline demands absolute precision and proportionality in the illustration of subject matter and allows for not even the slightest error. Among the most important jiehua painters in the Qing Dynasty was Yuan Jiang, an artist who greatly influenced generations of master painters who followed, including Yuan Yao and Zhang Ting Yan. Pavilion in a Snowy Landscape (estimate: HK$400,000-500,000/ US$51,600-64,500) is among the season’s top works and showcases Yuan Jiang’s superb skills and brushwork.

Fine Chinese Modern Paintings
30 November 2010, 2.30pm
The sale of Fine Modern Chinese Paintings offers a fine spectrum of works that date from late 19th century through the 20th century. Among the artists featured in the sale are Fu Baoshi, Zhang Daqian, Qi Baishi, Lin Feng Mian, and Xu Beihong, each of whom made significant contributions Chinese modern art’s rich history.

FU BAOSHI (1904-1965)
Fu Baoshi, considered one of the leading figures of Chinese Modern Painting, often used traditional poems and tales as the basis for his paintings. One of the most important highlights this season is Fu Baoshi’s The Song of the Pipa Player (estimate: HK$20,000,000 – 40,000,000/ US$2,580,600 – 5,161,300), based on the poem of the same name written in 816 AD by Bai Juyi, a well-known Tang dynasty poet and official. A tightly composed, dramatic work that exudes a pensive and melancholic tone, The Song of the Pipa Player shows Fu breaking through the traditional notions of Chinese painting to create something exciting and different while remaining culturally significant with its undercurrents of political commentary.

LIN FENGMIAN (1900-1991)
In the early 20th century, Chinese artists began to explore Western techniques and materials, impacting the 5,000-year-old tradition of Chinese painting and calligraphy. The art of Lin Fengmian, in particular, is one whose appeal reaches across the boundaries of language, culture, and nationality with its reinterpretation of Chinese artistic trandition. Known as the father of Chinese modernism, his subtle integration of tradional techniques with modern Chinese and Western elements can be seen this season in two works: Opera Figures (estimate: HK$3,000,000 – 4,000,000 /US$387,100 – 516,100) and Girl (estimate: HK$5,000,000 – 6,000,000/US$645,200 – 774,200).

ZHANG DAQIAN (1899-1983)
Zhang Daqian played a significant role in the recording the Dunhuang cave temples, where he worked for more than two years, closely copying and reproducing in free-hand imitation these ancient Buddhist murals. Painted in the winter of xinsi year (1941), Flying Deity (estimate: HK$3,000,000 – 4,000,000/ US$387,100 – 516,100) forms part of the 276 works that Zhang painted during his time in Dunhuang. It was during his time here that the artist began adopting the palette of vivid colors seen in Flying Deity. Much like the mineral pigments he observed in the murals he studied, this allowed him to enhance the sumptuousness and splendor of his Buddhist figures without disturbing their serene beauty. An inscription on this animated, elegant work details that it was inspired by the twelfth cave at Dunhuang.

Another highlight from Zhang this season is Dwelling in the Qingbian Mountains (estimate: HK$3,000,000 – 4,000,000/ US$387,100 – 516,100), a work painted in the style of Wang Meng, a preeminent landscape painter of the Yuan Dynasty. Zhang Daqian was extremely successful in reaching a balance between realism and romanticism, and here he not only is portraying the beautiful natural landscape, but is also conveying the inner landscape of his heart and mind.

QI BAISHI (1863-1957)
Recognized as one of the greatest Chinese artists of the 20th Century, Qi Baishi is known for his consummate skill in infusing the essence of traditional Chinese paintings into the art of a contemporary milieu to create a refreshing interpretation of life and Nature. Qi’s paintings carry a rich folk flavor that emphasizes his interchange with nature from which he drew his inspiration. Known for painting familiar genres of birds and flowers, insects and grasses, figures and landscapes, Qi Baishi was recognized not only for his meticulous detailing and contemplative mood, but more importantly for his unique style that is fresh and spontaneous, as he had once said himself: “artistic excellence lies between likeness and unlikeness.”

One of the highlights by Qi Baishi in this sale is Landscapes and Floral Album (estimate: HK$2,500,000 – 3,500,000/ US$322,600 – 451,600), an album that demonstrates Qi Baishi’s skilled technique in fine brushwork and meticulous detail. Simple in form, but not in technique or idea, the album is the result of Qi’s skill in working from direct observation of nature. In this album, one can see that Qi Baishi’s still life paintings are uncomplicated, inviting and warm; with a harmony and simplicity that reflects the sincerity of the artist and the subject matter.

XU BEIHONG (1895-1953)
Xu Beihong is one of the pioneers of the Chinese modern art movement. His artistic innovations functioned as a catalyst between classical and modern; Chinese and Western. A versatile painter equally skilled in Chinese ink and Western oil media, he integrated firm and bold brushstrokes with precise delineation of form and his broad subjects were all portrayed with much verisimilitude.

Xu Beihong was a master at the portrayal of animals, which won him a universal reputation. One of the highlights in the sale is Xu’s Cat (estimate: HK$1,500,000 – 2,000,000/ US$194,200 – 258,100). Xu’s delicate and steady strokes bring out not only the alertness of the cat, but also the loveliness of its character. Precise in perspective and proportion and detailed in depiction, the overall effect is a harmonious blend of Western realism and an ethereal quality seen in Chinese paintings.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium

Image: Lin Fengmian (1900–1991), Girl. Scroll, mounted and framed, ink and colour on paper, 91 x 67 cm. Estimate: US$ 645,200–774,200. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2010

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