LIU DAN (B. 1953)
LIU DAN (B. 1953)

Impression of the Qianlong Emperor’s Private Garden in the Forbidden City, Beijing

LIU DAN (B. 1953)
Impression of the Qianlong Emperor’s Private Garden in the Forbidden City, Beijing
Scroll, mounted and framed, ink on paper
45 x 165.5 cm. (17 3/4 x 65 1/8 in.)
Inscribed and signed, with one seal of the artist
Acquired directly from the artist in Beijing in 2012.
Further details
Growing up in a family whose history spanned several continents, Emy Cohenca was exposed to a rich variety of artistic and cultural influences. Her upbringing sparked a passion for art that would last a lifetime, and as that interest grew, Emy developed a sophisticated eye and an ability to identify artists who would go on to change the course of art history. Together with her husband, Jacques, the couple built a collection that brings together paintings, sculpture, and works on paper that span time, medium, and geography.

Brought to you by

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

Lot Essay

In Impression of the Qianlong Emperor’s Private Garden in the Forbidden City, Beijing, Liu Dan transforms a small section of a palace rock garden into a rich yet intricate landscape composition on paper. Acute bends and gentle curves outline abstract geology. Points of rock protrude in sharp definition, while weathered crevasses and small caverns retreat into deep, black ink. Clean brushstrokes separate paper-white highlights from painted texture; quick, dry, grey strokes enhance the roughness of the paper in emulating archaic rock forms. In some sections, the rock seems pock-marked from many years of rain; in others, swift rivulets have carved jagged channels. From right to left, a range of values across unique shapes creates a dramatic sense of movement.
There are more than meticulously-depicted rocks within the complex geology: possibly early evidence of Liu Dan’s interest in Western Renaissance drawing. Some rock formations in this painting seem influenced by human anatomy, which inspired 15th and 16th-century European artists. By depicting a straightforward garden scene in immense detail, Liu Dan reveals that minutia is no less challenging to comprehend at a large scale. Is it a rock, or is it a human figure? Is it co-mingled impressions of sections from the garden? Or is the painting meant to evoke impressions of a walk through the garden by the Qianlong Emperor himself?
Liu’s paintings embrace the idea of wu xing (not-form). This does not mean that Liu paints no forms—he does: rocks, mountains, trees, animals, and persons. But there is more to his paintings than their forms. In the way that Laozi’s Dao De Jing identifies the difference between the named and the not-named, this painting may be viewed in two ways: “not desiring to give it a name, one observes its sublime subtlety; desiring to give name, one observes its utility.” For Liu Dan, painting must be viewed in both notions —not-named and named, sublimely subtle and intensely useful.

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