Zhang Daqian makes waves as his ink works go un­der the ham­mer

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - By LIN QI linqi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Mas­ter painter Zhang Daqian (1899-1983) was well known for hav­ing a large num­ber of friends and stu­dents. Among them, painter Li Qi­u­jun was spe­cial.

They got to know each other through Li’s el­der brother, who was one of Zhang’s best friends.

They ad­mired each other’s artis­tic tal­ent and be­came con­fi­dants, which re­sulted in talk about a ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship.

In 1948, Zhang pro­duced Spring Clouds Amid Au­tumn Land­scape, a moun­tain-and­wa­ter ink paint­ing fea­tur­ing gongbi (metic­u­lous brush­work), as a gift for Li’s 50th birth­day.

A year later, Zhang per­ma­nently de­parted from the main­land, and trav­eled and ex­hib­ited around the world be­fore set­tling down in Taipei in 1976.

Af­ter leav­ing the main­land, he of­ten said that he missed Li, who died in Shang­hai in 1973.

Spring Clouds Amid Au­tumn Land­scape will be auctioned in Hong Kong on Oct 4.

The paint­ing not only marks a friend­ship be­tween the two pain­ters, but it de­serves spe­cial at­ten­tion be­cause it shows Zhang at the top of his game as he sought to mas­ter the moun­tain-and-wa­ter style, ac­cord­ing to C.K. Che­ung, head of Sotheby’s Chi­nese paint­ing depart­ment.

Sotheby’s will auc­tion the work at its ma­jor au­tumn sale, which runs from Oct 1 to 5.

Che­ung says the paint­ing’s com­po­si­tion and Zhang’s at­ten­tion to de­tails re­flect his in­cor­po­ra­tion of tra­di­tional touches, es­pe­cially from Song Dy­nasty (960-1279) paint­ings, while also de­vel­op­ing his own style.

“He laid out on the pa­per ranges of lofty moun­tains as is typ­i­cal in a Song paint­ing. But he also left blank ar­eas so that the paint­ing did not have a high den­sity of sub­jects,” says Che­ung.

“He worked out shim­mer­ing river waves as neatly as a fish­ing net. It shows how much time and en­ergy he in­vested in the paint­ing.”

For decades, Zhang was one of the world’s most-pop­u­lar ink artists of the 20th cen­tury.

But Che­ung says it is only when the art mar­ket ex­pe­ri­ences ups or downs that qual­ity tra­di­tional Chi­nese paint­ings like Zhang’s works regis­ter a steady and out­stand­ing per­for­mance in the mar­kets.

“The in­dus­tri­ous painter had a pro­duc­tive ca­reer, even though few high-qual­ity works from dif­fer­ent phases of his ca­reer are avail­able for sale now,” he says.

Mean­while, the Chi­nese art mar­ket has con­tin­ued to shrink since spring even though Zhang’s works are do­ing well.

His huge splashed-ink-and­color work, Peach Blos­som Spring, sold for HK$270 mil­lion ($34 mil­lion) in Hong Kong in April, set­ting an auc­tion record for the artist.

Sep­a­rately, at a Christie’s sale of Chi­nese ink paint­ings on Sept 13 in New York, Zhang’s works made seven of the top 20 sales.

Other works that have ap­peared in Sotheby’s auc­tions are Zhang’s Bud­dhist Mu­ral Paint­ing af­ter Tang Artists, a fig­ure paint­ing in­spired by his two-year study of Dun­huang cave art in the early 1940s, and the splashedink-and-color Sage by the Pine.

In a re­lated devel­op­ment, sev­eral works by Fu Baoshi (1904-65), an­other mas­ter ink painter, in­clud­ingWar­riors on the Night March, are slated to go un­der the ham­mer soon.

Fu’s col­ored-ink paint­ing God of Cloud andGreat Lord of Fate grossed 230 mil­lion yuan ($34 mil­lion) at a Bei­jing auc­tion in June.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Zhang Daqian’s SpringClouds AmidAu­tum­nLand­scape will go un­der the ham­mer on Oct 4.

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