Post Lot Text
A Journey to the Past
As a collector, authenticator, painter, calligrapher, poet, and writer, Wu Hufan was extraordinarily accomplished in the first half of the twentieth century. He was born in a family with generations of scholar-officials and received a classical education. Surrounded by genuine works of art from the past, he solidified his strong foundation in traditional culture. He lived his entire life and also became renowned within the realm of traditional Chinese culture. The four main sources of his collection are:
1. He inherited his paternal grandfather Wu Dacheng’s extensive collection
2. He obtained objects from his maternal grandfather Shen Yunchu, mostly paintings and calligraphy by Dong Qichang
3. Dowry from his wife Pan Jingshu and gifts from her family, such as Song dynasty rubbings of Ouyang Xun’s calligraphy
4. His own purchases
Wu Hufan was familiar with various styles of calligraphy in paintings, and inscriptions on archaic bronzes and stone tablets. His vast collection earned him the nickname “the only eye” in Shanghai Bund.
In addition to being a master of paintings and calligraphy and a skilled authenticator, Wu was the paradigm of a traditional southern literatus. He learned painting as a child from copying old paintings. Such time-tested method has no shortcut, but it allows the learner to grasp the characteristics of brushwork and ink usage of various schools. It also deepens one’s understanding and research of painting history. In 1918, when Wu Hufan was living in Shanghai and selling painting, he became well-known as the “grandson of Dacheng”. As he approached middle age, he concentrated on the landscape of Song and Yuan dynasties. His style was one of elegant archaism, with no parallel at the time.
Wu Hufan devoted his entire life to learn from the classical works of art, and to be a connoisseur and collector of them. With his firm grasp and practice of ancient inscriptions, painting, calligraphy, literature and opera, he lived a life which fully demonstrated the elegant cultivations of a traditional literatus. He painted Wood and Rock after Su Shi by way of emulation in 1965, when he was seventy-one years old. Confucius has said that “When one reaches seventy years in age, one can do as he wishes without violating propriety.” Following the footsteps of his family members, since his youth Wu Hufan has immersed himself in literature and the arts for over sixty years. His focus on paintings of the Song and Yuan dynasties after midlife endeared archaism to him. As we view this work, we could see that he has achieved the complete and nuanced control of the brush. This painting shares much with Su Shi’s original and is exceptional in its own right. After he finished the painting, Wu Hufan enhances it further with an inscription of Su Shi’s Cold Food Observance. The calligraphy is similar to the spring blossoming branches, swaying in the breeze. It is precisely like that saying that once the spirit is attained the form is forgotten, once the qi (spiritual ether) is flowing the structure is set, the spirit, form, ether, and structure are all found at the tip of the brush. Wood and Rock made its way to Japan, since then it has made myriad of earthly appearances in its homeland China through the technology of collotype printing. Wu Hufan based his emulation on one of such earthly appearances in his search of its original heavenly form. Indeed, he has obtained its spirit and structure.