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

Gazing into the Distance

ZHANG DAQIAN (1899-1983)
Gazing into the Distance
Scroll, mounted and framed, ink and colour on paper
114.5 x 44.3 cm. (45 1⁄8 x 17 1⁄2 in.)
Inscribed and signed, with four seals of the artist
Dated twelfth month, yihai year (1935)
Dedicated to Molin
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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