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IMPORTANT CHINESE PAINTINGS FROM THE WANG HSIN-HENG FAMILY
A native of Cixi, Zhejiang, Wang Hsin-heng (1908-1987) enrolled in Shanghai University in his early years and studied in the Soviet Union in 1926, where he was classmates with Chiang Ching-kuo. Upon his return to China, he joined the Military Affairs Commission of the National Government in 1932 and became one of Chiang Kai-shek’s personal staffs. At the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Wang was transferred to Hong Kong and served as the head of the Bureau of Investigation and Statistics. Following victory, he returned to Shanghai and was elected as one of the first legislators. He moved back to Hong Kong in 1949 and later Taiwan, where he was a member of the Legislative Yuan Diplomatic Committee. In time, Wang pursued careers in business, including chairman of the Asia Cement Corporation and executive director of Far East Textiles.
From a young age, Wang indulged in painting and writing calligraphy as his leisure pursuits. As Wang became an important government official, he was introduced to many prominent artists, subsequently leading to his impressive collection. Coinciding with Taiwan’s flourishing art scene in the mid-20th century, Wang’s relocation enabled him to be acquainted with more artists, including Zhang Daqian.
Wang first met Zhang in the autumn of 1951 at the artist’s Taiwan exhibition. Full of admiration for his talents, Wang acquired many works directly from the event. As Wang was born in the year of the Monkey, their friendship grew warm quickly especially with Zhang’s love for gibbons and their passion in art. Following Zhang’s departure from Taiwan, Wang continued to assist the artist in organizing art exhibitions and frequently penned letters asking after his well-being. From the late 70s, Wang and Zhang, along with influential figures Zhang Qun and Zhang Xueliang, established a monthly dining club to celebrate the love of art and good food. The four friends took turns hosting meals and, in each other’s company, savoured, reminisced, and entertained. Formed by three Zhangs and one Wang, the ‘Roundabout Club’ remains a fond tale among art circles.
The friendship between Zhang Daqian and Wang Hsin-heng, spanning over decades, resulted in numerous paintings gifted by the artist as tokens of appreciation. In the present sale of Wang’s family collection, the earliest work by Zhang dates back to the 50s, and those from the 70s to 80s are largely related to birthdays and celebrations, of which many are addressed to both Wang and his wife, showing the two families’ friendship. Exquisite and treasured, most of the selected works are featured in The Paintings and Calligraphy of Chiang Dai-Chien published by the National Museum of History. Among the paintings celebrating birthdays, many involved auspicious themes such as pine, bamboo, plum, and peach, though for Madame Youlan’s birthday in 1981, Zhang presented Verdant East Lake (Lot 1055), a splashed ink and colour painting of Dongqian Lake in Ningbo, the couple’s hometown. Simultaneously an especial gift for Madame Youlan and a rare splashed-colour work from Zhang’s later years, this remarkable painting embodies the camaraderie of the two families.
Besides Zhang Daqian, the family collection of Wang Hsin-heng also features other notable artists. The works dated before 1949, including Huang Junbi’s painting and Guo Moruo’s calligraphy, are believed to be acquired directly from the artists in Chongqing. The works by Pu Ru, Tai Jingnong, Jiang Zhaoshen, Ou Haonian, and He Huaishuo were acquired after Wang arrived in Taiwan in 1949. Among them, Pu Ru’s Album of Paintings and Calligraphy (Lot 1058), featuring 122 Tang poems and 32 paintings, stands to be the most impressive.
A well-connected and gregarious man, Wang collected a diverse range of artistic work, some of which will be part of Christie’s “Cultivating Delight” online auction. Wang Hsin-heng passed in 1987 and his son, Wang Yifang, later donated part of the family collection to the National Palace Museum. A distinguished presence during his lifetime, Wang Hsin-heng is fondly re-membered for his splendid art collection.