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

Landscape in the Style of Shitao

ZHANG DAQIAN (1899-1983)
Landscape in the Style of Shitao
Hanging scroll, ink and colour on paper
361.5 x 142 cm. (142 3⁄8 x 55 7⁄8 in.)
Inscribed and signed, with four seals of the artist
Dated tenth month, bingyin year (1926)
Dedicated to Huhan
One collector’s seal
Christie’s Hong Kong, Fine Chinese Modern Paintings, 31 May 2016, Lot 1468.
Ho Kung-Shang, Chang Dai-Chien vs. Four Monks 4: Painting by Shih-T'ao, Art Book Co. Ltd., Taiwan, 2017, p.96.
Post lot text
Scholars tend to divide the legendary life and career of Zhang Daqian chronologically, with the 1920s and 1930s up to his stay at Dunhuang as his early career. During this initial foray into painting, he was at his most energetic and exploratory self. In addition to studying under established artists in Shanghai, he built a solid foundation by emulating works of the masters of the past millennium. As such, Zhang Daqian exercised limitless creativity which led to a multifaceted oeuvre, displaying characteristics from various schools and origins of his later mature styles.
This section embodies some of the characteristic early works of Zhang Daqian, from a private collection in Hong Kong. After the collector became prosperous through trade in the 1930s and 1940s, he began acquiring works from important artists as a hedge against rising inflation and political instability. He brought his partial collection to Hong Kong when he relocated here in 1949, preserving it for over half a century. Lot 1085 is Zhang Daqian’s paradigm of figure paintings from the 30s, where he uses smooth, delicate, and fine brushstrokes to depict lightly coloured and elegant figures; Gazing into the Distance, created in 1935, is a blue-and-green expansive landscape which ushers in his styles in the 40s. Elements of new approaches after his intensive study at Dunhuang in the early 40s can be observed in Portrait of Ruan Xian and Portrait of Xu Yuan, which are both derived from well-known figures from A New Account of the Tales of the World. With similar dimensions, compositions, and mountings, it is reasonable to believe that these originally belonged to a set. Both were likely painted in the spring of 1941 before Zhang Daqian embarked on his second journey to Dunhuang. Decisive lines and saturated colours mark a departure from the refined elegance of his works from the previous decade. Landscape in the Style of Shitao and Album of Landscapes after Shitao attest to Zhang Daqian’s admiration for Shitao. Of the “Four Monk Masters,” Zhang Daqian was most influenced by Shitao as many of his extant works had been emulated by Zhang. The album shows his compositional inventiveness, as well as his familiarity with Shitao’s brushwork. Formerly in the collection of Professor Daniel Te-Yen Lee, the monumental Landscape in the Style of Shitao, over 3.5 metres in height, displays the layered peaks and lively flora reminiscent of Shitao, yet unlike Shitao, Zhang chooses a less untrammelled method for his composition. Painted in 1926, a young Zhang Daqian venerated and challenged traditions simultaneously. This section distils the diverse and promising artistic ventures of Zhang Daqian at the starting stage of a long and prolific career yet to come.

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Lot Essay

A rare monumental tour-de-force, Zhang Daqian’s Landscape in the Style of Shitao presents a lofty scholar traversing into the deep, majestic mountains with towering waterfall among the clouds. Influenced by his two teachers, Zeng Xi and Li Ruiqing, he learned connoisseurship in addition to emulating nature as well as old masters - a path that led to his highly individualized style. His study of Shitao’s oeuvre began while a pupil under Zeng and Li. By the second half of 1920, he has garnered some renown for his emulation of Shitao.
The Shitao original on which this work is based is a 309.5 cm. tall landscape currently preserved at the Sichuan Museum bearing similar size and composition. However, Zhang Daqian employs colours instead of ink monochrome, transforming Shitao’s solemnity into liveliness. This is probably due to the preference of the collector Liu Huhan who commissions the work. Zhang’s confidence is expressed through his copying of Emperor Qianlong’s habit of inscribing the word “divine” and affixing his seal on the centre of the top edge. The Shitao original once belonged to Zhang, as it was recorded in his collection catalogue; it was sold by his wife Yang Wanjun to the Sichuan Museum in 1957. Whether Zhang had already acquired this work when he created Landscape in the Style of Shitao is unknown, but his fondness for it can be observed from the fact that he had kept this work without selling it.
The original recipient, Liu Huhan, was the son of the wealthiest person of Nanxun, Liu Yong, who owned a lot of lands and real estate in the Jiangnan region. Liu Huhan was a devoted collector who favoured large-scale works of leading contemporary artists—Wu Changshuo, Huang Binghong, Zhang Shanzi, and He Tianjian, among others, have all created monumental commissions for him. He likely took notice of Zhang Daqian when Zhang held his first solo exhibition in Shanghai in 1925.
Liu Huhan’s collection began to disseminate in the 1940s, and Landscape in the Style of Shitao was acquired by an interpreter for the United States Military Advisory Group stationed in Nanjing, Professor Daniel Te-Yen Lee. In 1972, Professor Lee hosted a local television program in California where he interviewed Zhang Daqian, who was then living there. This video has become one of the most significant primary sources in the study of the artist. It was said that Professor Lee showed Zhang a photo of this work, and Zhang reminisced the past and mentioned that this was the grandest work he did at the time.

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