Sotheby's Hong Kong presents Fine Chinese Paintings Autumn Sale 2013 on 7 October

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Sotheby's Hong Kong presents Fine Chinese Paintings Autumn Sale 2013 on 7 October
Qi Baishi’s Eight Crabs, ink on paper, framed, 34.5 x 120 cm, Est. HK$1.5 – 2 million / US$192,000 – 256,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Hong Kong will present its Fine Chinese Paintings Autumn Sale 2013 on 7 October at Hall 3, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The sale will bring to the market a selection of works by leading modern Chinese artists such as Zhang Daqian, Lin Fengmian, Pu Ru and Lu Yanshao, alongside a number of carefully assembled collections including Paintings From An Important North American Private Collection and Calligraphy Works By Mid To Late Qing Dynasty Masters, to name a few. Exquisite works by a group of important early 20th Century artists from Beijing and Tianjin, such as Jin Cheng, Chen Hengke, Yao Hua, Chen Shaomei and Qi Baishi, will also be featured. The sale will offer a total of over 350 lots, estimated at over $100 million / US$12.8 million*.

Alongside the sale, Sotheby’s also will present Awakening Spring: An Exhibition of Significant Works by Wu Guanzhong, an exhibition of ink paintings from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s created by the renowned modern Chinese artist, Wu Guanzhong, in celebration of Sotheby’s 40 years in Asia. The 40 museum-quality works come from The Low Gallery which boasts one of the world’s most important private assemblages of Wu’s ink paintings.

C.K. Cheung, Head of Sotheby's Chinese Paintings Department, said: “This season, we will bring together seminal works by prominent modern Chinese artists from private collections around the world. Several thematic sections will also be featured, among which a selection titled Early 20th Century Art Scene in Beijing and Tianjin will showcase over 20 outstanding works by the most acclaimed artists from Beijing and Tianjin of the Republican period, offering a rare glimpse into the Northern Chinese art scene of an erstwhile era, and how its artists influenced and complemented each other. In addition, we are delighted to present two special works by Lu Yanshao, who, in early 1960s, suffered from political oppression in China and thus devoted himself to studying the inscriptions on ancient stone tablets of the Han Dynasty. Driven by his passion, Lu went on to develop an oeuvre revolving around the appreciation, chronicling and visits of steles. The undertakings enabled him to unite with generations of his predecessors in spirit and brought joy to his otherwise monotonous existence.”

Early 20th Century Art Scene in Beijing And Tianjin
Qi Baishi (1864 – 1957), Eight Crabs. Ink on paper, framed, 34.5 x 120 cm. Est. HK$1.5 – 2 million / US$192,000 – 256,000

Eight Crabs previously belonged to the Sekkodo Collection, established in 1963 bySaionji Kinkazu, an influential political dignitary of Japan. Maintaining a long-standing relationship with the Chinese people and government, Kinkazu worked assiduously in promoting Sino-Japanese bilateral relations since 1949. His efforts culminated in the birth of the Japan-China Friendship Association, through which he actively advocated non-official exchanges between both countries. From 1958, Kinkazu settled down in Beijing, only to return to Japan eventually upon the persuasion of Zhou Enlai, then Premier of the People’s Republic of China, to stay away from the political movement in the country. In 1965, Sekkodo was given special rights by the Chinese government to acquire more than a hundred paintings by Qi Baishi for an exhibition tour around Japan. The present work, Eight Crabs, is one of them.

Eight Crabs was executed on a horizontal format, which is extremely rare throughout Qi Baishi’s oeuvre. Even more exceptional is the inclusion of eight crabs in the same composition, depicted as crawling around freely as they move in and out of sashaying seaweeds underwater. Viewed alongside Crabs by Chen Hengke, the two paintings convey a sense of mutual influence and an exchange of artistic notes between the two artists.

Chen Hengke (1876 - 1923), Crabs. Executed in 1920. Ink on paper, hanging scroll, 105.5 x 47.3 cm. Est. HK$400,000 – 600,000 / US$51,000 – 77,000
Crabs draws inspiration from a poem by Huang Tingjian, an artist and scholar from the Northern Song dynasty. The painting depicts clusters of crabs tied together by a long and fine strand of reed in haphazard fashion. Some of them are seen from the front and the side, while others show only their backs or their pincers and claws. Only black ink is used on this painting, but its skilful application under Chen’s paint brush results in an adroit blend of dark and light shades, dry and moist ink effects. These combined with the dots and ink wash effects created, outline not only the form of these underwater creatures, but also their liveliness and animation.

This painting sheds light on the close friendship between Qi Baishi and Chen Hengke. The crab is a rare subject matter in Chen Hengke’s paintings, and it was only at Qi Baishi’s request that he agreed to paint them. On the other hand, the present work was executed in 1920 - the period of change in artistic style and techniques for Qi Baishi as he progressed into his sixties under the influence of Chen. Taking his friend’s sagely words to heart, Qi became greatly inspired in his subsequent depictions of aquatic life, especially crabs and shrimps, and this painting certainly bears the evidence of such enlightenment.

Jin Cheng (1878 - 1926), Spring Scenery Of Jiangnan. Executed in 1921. Ink and colour on paper, handscroll. Painting: 24 x 123.3 cm; Annotation: 25.5 x 704 cm. Est. HK$1.5 – 2 million / US$192,000 – 256,000
Spring Scenery of Jiangnan is a full-scale emulative work by Jin Cheng - right down to every detail - on a landscape painting by Wen Zhengming, a renowned artist from the Ming dynasty. It was executed during the period when Jin Cheng devoted much of his career to emulating the works and techniques of the early masters. Among these works created by Jin, Spring Scenery of Jiangnan is noted for its fine, exquisite brushstrokes, coupled with brilliant colours used to evoke a pristine landscape that lifts the composition above the ordinary. The artist’s superb techniques and the magnanimous vision revealed in this painting reflect artistry honed through a lifetime of prolific output. Apart from the matured skills and a high degree of adherence to the original, this painting has transcended technical considerations to encapsulate the true spirit of traditional landscape art once achieved by the ancient masters.

Zhang Daqian (1899 – 1983), Lady Seated By The Bamboo. Ink and colour on paper, framed, 55 x 40.5 cm. Est. HK$2.5 – 3.5 million / US$320,000 – 450,000

Lady Seated By The Bamboo owes its inspiration to a poem by renowned poet Huang Ren from the Qing dynasty. The painting captures the gist of Huang’s poem, not by rigid adherence to its every word, but through a portrayal of its essence filtered through the artist’s creativity. Free from the sense of melancholy suggested in the original verse, the painting offers a portrayal of elegance, personified by a court lady sitting on a rock, with arched eyebrows resembling crescent moons, jewelled accessory bedecking her coiffure and ornamental sash around her waist meticulously painted. These prominent details exemplify Zhang’s artistic maturity, which materialised upon his return from a study trip in the Dunhuang grottoes.

Poised and relaxed, the lady appears absorbed in her admiration of the flowers and bamboos close by. Featured in the background is a cluster of green foliage with thin branches swaying in the breeze, and tiny red flowers blooming around the rock and bamboos, which juxtapose with the blue forget-me-nots to evoke a picture of undulating heights. The scenic composition comes to life with the application of mineral paints in green hues, highlighted by slight touches of gold. Fine scroll paper is chosen for its smoothness to facilitate swift, unhindered brush movement. Forgoing intense colours in favour of milder tones on such fine paper is also a testament to Zhang’s thoughtful and calculated creation.

Huang Binhong (1864 – 1955), Recluse In A Secluded Valley. Executed in 1955. Ink and colour on paper, hanging scroll, 89 x 48.6 cm. Est. HK$2 – 3 million / US$256,000 – 385,000
Coming from the private collection of a senior French diplomat, Recluse In A Secluded Valley was created by Huang Binhong in his elderly years as a gift for Chen Mingshu, who held a key position in the Chinese Republican Army. Huang maintained few connections with the rich and famous, but he and Chen Mingshu became close friends because of their common interest in art. The present work is one of Huang’s final works before his death. Abstaining from the use of vivid, flashy colours, the composition is immersed in moist, sombre shades, but without the slightest trace of dry monotony. Such a venerable style, matched by the inclusion of annotations executed in large print, block calligraphic script featuring clearly written, neatly aligned characters, serves as the highest form of respect for the recipient of the gift.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium and prices achieved include the hammer price plus buyer’s premium.

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