ZHANG DAQIAN (1899-1983)
ZHANG DAQIAN (1899-1983)
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ZHANG DAQIAN (1899-1983)

Landscape Hidden in Mist After Bi Hong

ZHANG DAQIAN (1899-1983)
Landscape Hidden in Mist After Bi Hong
Hanging scroll, ink and colour on silk
213 x 75 cm. (83 7/8 x 29 ½ in.)
Entitled, inscribed and signed, with two seals of the artist
Dated autumn, renwu year (1942)
Further inscribed and signed by the artist, with two seals
Dedicated to Yizhi
One collector’s seal of Ye Qianyu (1907-1995)
With a titleslip, and a collector’s seal of Ye Qianyu
Christie’s Hong Kong, Fine Modern and Contemporary Chinese Paintings, 1 November 1999, Lot 139.
Zhongguo Meishu, Issue 8, February 1982, p.12.
Selected Works by Zhang Daqian, Tianjin People’s Fine Arts Publishing House, 1984, pl. 5.
Han Mo, vol. 40, Han Mo Publishing House, Hong Kong, May 1993, pp. 72-73.
Exhibition of Paintings by Zhang Daqian: Beijing Section, 16-30, June 1983..
Further details
Landscape Hidden in Mist after Bi Hong exemplifies Zhang Daqian’s most important fine-line (gongbi), blue-and-green, figure-in-landscape works completed during the peak of his career. A large-scale painting on satin with meticulous details also reflects the artist’s reverence for tradition, as well as his determination to explore and push the boundaries of Chinese painting.
According to the inscription, Zhang Daqian acquired the Bi Hong painting from which he emulated when he was living in Beijing before the Sino-Japanese War. During this period, he focused on collecting paintings from the Tang and Song dynasties, aiming to elevate his techniques to the level of the ancient masters. The Bi Hong painting did not bear any signature; purportedly it bore an inscription from Emperor Huizong of the Song dynasty, stating that “the powerful and purposeful brush strokes cannot be from periods after the Tang dynasty.” During his extended stay in Dunhuang, Zhang Daqian determined that this was an authentic work by Bi Hong after studying numerous Tang wall paintings. Bi Hong held an office during the Tianbao reign (742-756) and was mentioned in the verses of the prominent Tang poet Du Fu, in the treatise by the Tang art historian Zhang Yanyuan, and in Xuanhe Painting Catalogue produced by the Song court. Unfortunately, few of his works have survived. The significance of this work to Zhang Daqian can be glimpsed from his 1943 Dafeng tang shuhua lu (Dafeng tang Calligraphy and Painting Catalogue), where it is listed as the first work in the collection. Currently, it is preserved at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as a donation from Zhang Daqian in 1972 according to museum records. It is worth noting that the Met also holds a work of the same composition previously in the collection of Mr and Mrs Earl Morse, but it is attributed Chen Hongshou.
Landscape Hidden in Mist after Bi Hong is virtually the same size as the Bi Hong original at the Met, with an almost identical composition. Layers of mountain peaks towering over the vertical composition in the far distance. Ancient tall trees in the middle ground are interrupted by bands of heavy atmosphere. In the foreground stands a red-robed figure, perhaps a lofty-minded, reclusive scholar, glancing back at the servant boy who has fallen behind. The varying depths and heights depicted as well as the rich colour palette, hark back to the stylistic characteristics of Tang landscape paintings.
Zhang Daqian also injects his strong personal flavours into this reinterpretation of a traditional original. Whereas Bi Hong uses lines to delineate the surfaces of rocks and trees, Zhang uses textural strokes to mould the same shapes, creating a stronger sense of volume. Bi’s figure of a frail old man also contrasts sharply with Zhang’s classic, serene middle-aged scholar. The heavy applications of cinnabar, azurite, malachite, and white powder—an influence of the Dunhuang wall paintings—have been well preserved on the satin. As such, its vivid colours remain virtually unchanged after 80 years.
Zhang Daqian began working on this painting in 1941 and finished it in the following year. He sent it to its original recipient “Yizhi,” which was the sobriquet of his old friend Xiao Fan (1890-1948). A native to Neijiang of the Sichuan province, Xiao Fan and Zhang Daqian became friends when they were children; later he worked in the salt trade and banking. He managed the sales of all of Zhang’s exhibitions in Sichuan after 1939. Zhang frequently referred to him fondly as a brother and the two were very close. This painting entered the possession of an unknown collector who called himself “Jingweng” before 1952. Later it was acquired by Ye Qianyu, who recalled in writings that he found this work in the early 1960s in the Liulichang neighbourhood in Beijing. It made its debut in the market at Christie’s in 1999; 20 years later, it emerges once again, bringing us awe and amazement.

Brought to you by

Carmen Shek
Carmen Shek Cerne (石嘉雯) Vice President

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