Masterstrokes of a 20th century legend: Christie's to offer a series of exceptional paintings by Zhang Daqian

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Masterstrokes of a 20th century legend: Christie's to offer a series of exceptional paintings by Zhang Daqian
Temple by the Waterfall - scroll mounted and framed, ink and colour on paper, 57 x 90 cm, estimate: HK$15,000,000-20,000,000,/ US$2,000,000-2,600,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2015.

HONG KONG.- From 30 November to 1 December 2015, a group of masterworks by Zhang Daqian, one of the most prodigious Chinese 20th century artists, will be offered at auction at Christie’s Hong Kong. Consigned from several distinguished collections, the rich selection of works beautifully represents a cross section of the artist’s highly revered body of work with a special highlight on his splashed ink series.

Zhang Daqian's splashed ink works are a culmination of his life-long dedication and represent the pinnacle of his career, rich with the accumulated skill and experience from his travels around the globe and shaped heavily by his continuous striving for re-invention and greatness. Abstract in nature (these works are clearly influenced by the West), they harkening back to his cultural roots and Chinese heritage. This harmony is beautifully represented in the amalgamation of the uncontrollable and controllable – the former being the (eventual) distribution and absorption of ink (intensity and spread), and the latter being the artist’s ability to transform them into tangible mountains, hills, waterfalls.

Ben Kong, International Specialist, Head of Chinese of Paintings, commented: ‘Without a doubt Zhang Daqian was a leading figure in Modern Chinese painting. His astonishing oeuvre is a distillation through the history of Chinese painting, achieved from unabating and obsessive rigour. In modern art he stands out for his innovations with his splashed ink technique, displaying magnificent landscapes of placid refinement and natural grace, while in traditional painting he is immortalised as both a major collector and a supremely skilled practitioner.’

Highlighting Christie’s autumn sale of Chinese Modern Paintings is a series of significant splashed ink works from Zhang Daqian’s late career. The splashed ink series began as early as 1957, when his vision was affected by diabetic retinopathy (ruptured capillaries in the retina), which served as a catalyst for this now signature style. His technique gradually developed over years with this landmark technique coming into full fruition while in Brazil at his studio (the Garden of Eight Virtues).

Created in 1979, at a time when Daqian had been practising his splashed ink painting technique for over ten years, Mountains Amidst a Sea of Clouds (scroll, mounted and framed, ink and colour on paper, 68.8 x 136.5 cm, estimate: HK$12,000,000-18,000,000 / US$1,600,000-2,300,000) depicts two contrasting landscapes. The lower part accurately depicts towering mountains, craggy hills, flowing waterfalls, clusters of pines, and lingering clouds, while the top features the splashed ink technique of fluid shades of blue to represent undulating clouds and mist. Despite these compositional contrasts, Mountains Amidst a Sea of Clouds is painted in complete harmony, exemplifying the masterful techniques that characterise Zhang Daqian’s late works.

Created in splashed ink and colour, Boats Under a Lush Mountain fuses hues of green, blue, and black to create one continuous visual form accentuated with houses and pavilions that resonate literati paintings (scroll, mounted and framed, ink and colour on paper, 64 x 134.5 cm; estimate: HK$2,000,000-3,000,000 / US$260,000-390,000;).

A special selection of splashed ink works from a Brazilian collection is highlighted by Snow-Capped Mountains which was directly acquired from Zhang Daqian’s solo exhibition held in So Paulo in 1974.

• Living in the Spring Mountains. Scroll, mounted and framed, ink and colour on gold paper, 53 x 40.8 cm. Estimate: HK$3,000,000-4,000,000 / US$390,000-520,000

• Snow-Capped Mountains. Scroll, mounted and framed, ink and colour on paper, 59 x 82 cm. Estimate: HK$3,500,000-4,500,000 / US$460,000-580,000

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