LOTS 1381 — 1382
FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE MASTER OF THE ORCHID PAVILION
In early 1941, Xu Beihong was invited to visit Singapore, Malacca, Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, and Penang where he held fundraising exhibitions in aid of China, at the time ravaged by war. In Penang, his exhibitions received unconditional support from the Master of the Orchid Pavilion, when the two men became close friends. Generous in nature and praised by Zhang Daqian for his magnanimity, the Master of the Orchid Pavilion helped artists including Zhang Daqian, Zhao Shao’ang, and Yang Shanshen during their stay in Penang. It was thanks to his diligent care and hospitality that this period became a particularly prolific one in Xu Beihong’s artistic career.
Xu Beihong had a difficult youth drifting from one place to another, yet he had always carried an anthology of poems by Yu Xin with him. Yu was a poet from the Northern and Southern dynasties era sent to the North away from home; hence his writing often expressed a nostalgic longing for one’s homeland at a time of crisis. In Penang, Xu Beihong and the Master of the Orchid Pavilion often recited Yu Xin’s poems, deeply moved by the desolate sentiments described by the poet. The present painting is one of the two works Xu Beihong created inspired by his poetry.
In Scenes Inspired by Yu Xin’s Poetic Sentiment, the horses are depicted in an expressive manner, full of vigour and liveliness, with one looking proudly into the distance and the other bowing down, scratching its head. The painting was created in 1939, a difficult time in modern Chinese history when Xu Beihong often returned to the subject-matter of the horse, a symbol of strength and courage – representing the patriotic artist’s support for his people and his longing for a stronger country.