QI BAISHI (1863-1957)
The Feng Wen Tang Collection of Chinese Paintings The Feng Wen Tang collection comprises 25 works by Qi Baishi, which is the result of passion, dedication and commitment over the years, whereby the collector searched out works by the artist, pursuing a vision that became reality. These works comprehensively cover Qi Baishi's achievements in fields of birds and flowers, to figures, landscape and calligraphy, enabling collectors to appreciate and admire the artist's development and achievements over the years. Qi Baishi was born into a destitute peasant family in the city of Xiangtan in Hunan province. Despite being fond of painting since childhood, he was unable to apprentice under painters due to poverty and instead turned to wood carving as a means for livelihood. At the age of 16, in order to make a living, Qi apprenticed of Zhou Zhimei (1840-1906), mastered the skills of carving numerous classical characters. In his spare time Qi drew multiple mythical and Buddhist figures by copying the illustrations in the "Manual of the Mustard Seed Garden". At 26, he started to study figure painting formally, as a student of Xiao Chuanxin. In 1889, when Qi was 27, he became a student of Hu Zizhuo (Qinyuan; 1847-1914), a renowned literati artist in Hunan province, and began to receive more formal artistic training in landscape and flowers and birds painting. Influenced by his masters, Qi mostly painted figure paintings in the gongbi ("meticulous brushwork") style, and studied after the "Four Wangs", as well as Bada Shanren, in his early years. From 1902 to 1909 Qi took a total of five important journeys. During the journeys, Qi got numerous chances of seeing magnificent landscapes in different parts of China and studying from a lot of works by important painters in the collection of his friends, finally established his own xieyi ("freehand") style in landscape painting and figure painting. In the field of birds and flowers painting, he was convinced by his friend Chen Shizeng (1876-1923) to change from the techniques learned from Bada Shanren to a new style which was a strong colour contrast between flamboyant flowers, fruits, leaves and branches, in green and ink. The five important journeys and the reformation in his late years pushed him to stepped out of the aged tradition and establish his unique style. Qi Baishi's early exposure to the craft of painting was in figures. Qi's first painting was that of Lei Gong, the God of Thunder. At 27, Qi started to paint figures for sale. To satisfy demand, he mainly painted classical female characters, the most sought-after subjects, as well as some mythical and historical figures. In the following decade the artist continued painting figures in the gongbi style. In 1902, the 40-year-old artist went to the city of Xi'an to teach painting. During his stay there he became friends with Fan Zengxiang (1846-1931), a poet who was also a collector of classical paintings. After seeing Fan's collection, especially the works by Bada Shanren (1626-1705) and Jin Nong (1687-1763), the artist, deeply impressed, thought that his own gongbi-style paintings placed too much emphasis on depicting the appearance of figural subjects, overlooking the importance of capturing their inner essence. Consequently, the interpretive and freely expressive xieyi style, meaning "sketching thoughts" in Chinese, gradually won his favour. Qi's xieyi style was firmly established after he was 60. Marked by mostly empty backgrounds and simple compositions, his paintings usually feature one to two figures, executed with a thick brush, aiming to accentuate their spirit and energy through bold and lively brushwork. Painted around 1945, The Retired Officer (Lot 1239) is based on a story from the Jin dynasty (265-420 A.D.). Bi Zhuo, an important yet upright official, worked in a highly corrupted court where most government officials were susceptible to bribery. One night, drunk and penniless, he sneaked into his neighbour's backyard and drank the wine stored there. He was not castigated however, but praised for his integrity. In contrast, Qi saw contemporary officials as corrupt and incompetent; The Retired Officer is a satirical attack on the pervasive political atmosphere of the time. More importantly, The Retired Officer is the first Qi Baishi piece the collector was introduced to from her childhood, marking the commencement of the collection. The painter alternately used thick and thin brushes filled with ink in different tones to draw the figure's clothing. By wielding the brushes at various angles and speeds, he created rich brushwork to reveal the folds on the clothing and the figure's shape underneath. Portrait of Tao Yuanming (Lot 1237) also has a similar composition and brushwork.
QI BAISHI (1863-1957)

Portrait of Tao Yuanming

Details
QI BAISHI (1863-1957)
Portrait of Tao Yuanming
Inscribed and signed, with one seal of the artist
Hanging scroll, ink and colour on paper
95 x 33 cm. (37 3/8 x 13 in.)
20th Century
Literature
Exhibition catalogue of Paintings and Calligraphy by Qi Baishi - The Feng Wen Tang Collection, Christie's Hong Kong, 2013, pp.82-83, pl.28. Masterpieces by Masters - Qi Baishi, Figure, Henan Fine Arts Publishing House, July 2013, p.9.
Baishi Liu Yun - Collection of Paintings by Qi Baishi, Volume I, People's Fine Arts Publishing House, Beijing, February 2008, pp.100-101, pl.36.
Catalogue of Qi Baishi's Paintings, Volume II, Tianjin People's Fine Arts Publishing House, July 2006, pp.59.
Selected works of Chinese Modern Masters - Qi Baishi, Landscape and Figure, People's Fine Arts Publishing House, Beijing, December 2003, p.58.
Qi Baishi, Qi Baishi's Autobiography, Shandong Pictorial Publishing House, July 2000, p.17.
The Collected Works of Qi Baishi, Volume 3, Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, October 1996, p.240, pl.227.
The Selection of Rong Bao Zhai, No. 74, Figures by Qi Baishi, Rong Bao Zhai, Beijing, April 1993, p.33.
Masterpiece of Painting by Qi Baishi, People's Fine Art Publishing House, Beijing, October 1991, p.45.
Exhibited
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Paintings and Calligraphy by Qi Baishi - The Feng Wen Tang Collection, Christie's Hong Kong, 21-25 November 2013.
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