Specialist Jessie Or introduces some of the leading figures within the centuries-old traditional Chinese art form of calligraphy
The elegant marks within the traditional Chinese art form of Calligraphy may seem indecipherable to the Western viewer but they belie a long history of scholarly tradition from the Ming dynasty to the present day.
‘Chinese calligraphy covers five scripts: standard, clerical, seal, running and cursive, of which the last is by far the most fascinating,’ says Jessie Or. ‘In the modern world there are many ways to be successful, but centuries ago, the final goal for studying hard was to enter the government as officers and one day become a known figure. In the Ming Dynasty (14th–17th century), not many scholars could position themselves in the imperial court, but luckily a few of them managed to make their names known in the history of a different field — Chinese Calligraphy.’
Wang Duo (1592-1652), Cursive Script Calligraphy, 1643. Handscroll, ink on satin. 26.5 x 338 cm. (10 1/2 x 133 in.) Sold for HK$19,160,000 / $2,483,826 in the Fine Chinese Classical Paintings and Calligraphy sale on 30 November 2015 at Christie’s Hong Kong
Wang Duo (1592–1652) studied calligraphy since childhood and became an officer in the court of the late Ming Dynasty. When he was turning 50 however, he encountered obstacles in his court career and turned instead to calligraphy, developing the cursive script into his own special style of the ‘one-line brush’. This important handscroll is one of the works created during this period.
Zhao Zhiqian (1829-1884), Calligraphic Couplet in Running Script, 1870. A pair of hanging scrolls, ink on paper. Each scroll measures 134 x 33 cm. (52 3/4 x 13 in.) This work was offered in the Fine Chinese Classical Paintings and Calligraphy sale on 30 November 2015 at Christie’s Hong Kong
Zhao Zhiqian was a noted calligrapher, seal-engraver and painter of the Qing Dynasty. All his life, he strived to improve his poetry, calligraphy, seal engraving and painting, and in doing so, he became one of the best among his contemporaries. He successfully refined the techniques initiated by masters before him and managed to create his own style which is admired even now.
Zhang Ruitu (1570-1641), Calligraphy in Cursive-Running Script. Hanging Scroll, ink on satin. 203 x 43 cm. (79 7/8 x 16 7/8 in.) This work was offered in the Fine Chinese Classical Paintings and Calligraphy sale on 30 November 2015 at Christie’s Hong Kong
This cursive-running script by Zhang Ruitu (1570–1641) is painted on satin — making it very difficult to control the flow of ink. The artist must be experienced and familiar with the nature of material to regulate the timing of the ink writing. The last part of the brushstroke has a special term, ‘fei bai’ (flying white) as a result of the effect of the drying ink. Another difficulty presented by a long scroll is that the artist must keep to the vertical line while giving each word its own individual personality.
Wang Jiqian (C. C. Wang, 1907-2003), Poem by Du Fu. Scroll, mounted and framed, ink on paper. 68 x 68 cm. (26 3/4 x 26 3/4 in.) Sold for HK$100,000 / US$12,964 in the Chinese Contemporary Ink sale on 30 November 2015 at Christie’s Hong Kong
The late C.C. Wang (1907–2003) was a collector, connoisseur and painter, who enjoyed classical paintings and calligraphy and appreciated the joy to be had in the creation of these works. Scholars tended to use calligraphy as a means of personal expression for their thoughts, feelings and knowledge; in this work Wang writes out a line of seven characters originally composed by the 8th century poet Du Fu: ‘Respect the sage of the past, whilst not belittling those in the modern world.’ Though the message is traditional, the style is contemporary.
Wang Dongling (B. 1945), Squiggle Calligraphy — Flower Lyrics. Scroll, mounted and framed. Ink on paper. 69.2 x 69 cm. (27 1/4 x 27 1/8 in.) This work was offered in the Chinese Contemporary Ink sale on 30 November 2015 at Christie’s Hong Kong
Wang Dongling (b. 1945) practises Chinese calligraphy in a modern way by a combining classical style with various forms of art and culture. He believes that the line is the most important element in calligraphy and that by experimentation and development, Chinese calligraphy could be shown to the world as an international genre.
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