• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 12551

    Fine Chinese Modern Paintings

    31 May 2016, Convention Hall

  • Lot 1381

    XU BEIHONG (1895-1953)

    Scenes Inspired by Yu Xin’s Poetic Sentiment

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    XU BEIHONG (1895-1953)
    Scenes Inspired by Yu Xin’s Poetic Sentiment
    Scroll, mounted and framed, ink and colour on paper
    102 x 105 cm. (40 1/8 x 41 3/8 in.)
    Inscribed with a poem and signed, with four seals of the artist
    Dated late autumn, twenty-eighth year (of the Republic, 1939)


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    Winning high acclaim for their bold and lively styles, Xu’s horse paintings were admired amongst collectors and connoisseurs for their strength and brashness, linked to Xu’s desire to express his own feelings of patriotism. Painted with exceptionally bold and expressive strokes, Purple Horse is a breakthrough from the conventional techniques using meticulous fine-lines and controlled ink wash. Xu employed freehand strokes and outlined only the critical parts, such as the nose, the chest, and the hooves. Xu Beihong studied the anatomy of horses and observed their postures and expressions in great detail; the shape of the large muscles at the neck, breast and back is accentuated with ink washes in various tones, creating a handsome and robust figure, confirming Xu’s position as one of the first generation of innovative artists seeking to revive the long tradition of Chinese aesthetics and visuality.

    Pre-Lot Text

    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.