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

Living in the Mountains

ZHANG DAQIAN (1899-1983)
Living in the Mountains
Scroll, mounted and framed, ink and colour on silk
72.5 x 122.7 cm. (28 1⁄2 x 48 1⁄4 in.)
Inscribed and signed, with four seals of the artist
Dated first month, jiyou year (1969)
Dedicated to Mengdu and Madame Xingzhu
Acquired directly from the artist by the previous American Chinese collector, and thence by descent.
Christie's Hong Kong, Fine Chinese Modern Paintings, 2 June 2015, Lot 1528.

Brought to you by

Carmen Shek Cerne (石嘉雯)
Carmen Shek Cerne (石嘉雯) Vice President, Head of Department, Chinese Paintings

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Lot Essay

Painted in 1969, Zhang Daqian’s Living in the Mountains is a stunning balancing act: on a luminous pearl-like background, ink wash whirls seductively, gently suffused pools of azurite and malachite forming vaporous clouds, giving way to the secluded dwellings, textured mountains and trees below. One of the largest splashed-ink and splashed-colour works executed on unmounted silk, Living in the Mountains is a prime example of the artist’s triumphant exploration of the very materiality of his medium, a celebratory play between darkness and light, drenching ink and unpainted surfaces, the abstract and the figural.
Living in the Mountains dates to February or March of 1969, when Zhang Daqian had just concluded a series of groundbreaking solo exhibitions at Frank Caro Gallery in New York, S. H. Mori Gallery in Chicago and Alberts-Langdon in Boston from October to December 1968. By the end of the 1960s, splashing ink and colour had become his favourite creative pursuit, and he had made Carmel his home, often staying for several months on his voyages between South America and Asia. It was during this time of global travels that his tireless experimentation with materials, such as wood board and fibreglass, reached a climax. Realised on a massive scale, Living in the Mountains continues Zhang Daqian’s fascination with painting on silk, beholden to the legacy of the eighth-century artists who spilt ink onto silk in a drunken stupor. The unabsorbent nature of Japanese silk requires delicate sizing and preparation as well as supreme virtuosity and control. Notably, paintings on silk are often backed on paper. Yet the lustrous silk surface here is stretched over a support, creating a glowing optical effect reminiscent of a lightbox. With impeccable control of the ink and brush, the artist brilliantly builds shapes, colours and textures, transforming them into clouds and shadows punctuated by lush vegetation with minimal brushstrokes almost invisible to the eye. The resulting image is an astonishing coup given over to the sheer beauty of the surface with powerful immediacy.

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