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QI BAISHI (1863-1957)
QI BAISHI (1863-1957)


QI BAISHI (1863-1957)
Inscribed with a poem and signed, with two seals of the artist
Dated summer, fourth month, xinwei year (1931)
Dedicated to Zhiyuan
One collector's seal
Hanging scroll, ink and colour on paper
180 x 47.5cm. (70 3/4 x 18 3/4 in.)
20th Century

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Lot Essay

Wang Zuanxu (1887-1950), courtesy name Zhiyuan, was from Xichong, Sichuan. A graduate from the Sichuan Army Academy, he started his career in the Nationalist Military: first as Commander of the Fourth Troop Division of the Twenty-first Armed Forces in 1926; then moved up the ranks to various senior posts, including Chief Military Commander of Weixu and Zhongqing and then Deputy Chief Official of the Southwestern Military Executive Office. Wang loved paintings and calligraphy and began corresponding with Qi Baishi after commissioning the carving of a seal from him. Seals of various sizes were made for Wang, including a rare "Wang Zuanxu" seal. Wang invited Qi to visit Sichuan a couple of times and in 1936, Qi brought his wife, who was a native of Sichuan, and his two sons along for a trip. To express his gratitude for Wang's hospitality, Qi Baishi offered some great works as gifts to Wang Zuanxu. The most important one is a landscape screen of twelve-panels created in 1932, a masterpiece after the twelve-fold screen painted for Zilin in 1926. Wang eventually donated this treasure to the Chongqing Museum in 1950.

Created in the summer of 1931, Wisteria is the earliest known recorded painting that Qi Baishi gifted to Wang Zuanxu (aka Zhiyuan). Qi painted many works of wisteria after the age of 60, but a large picture like this one is very rare. In Wisteria, the hanging clusters dangle like necklaces and strings of pearls in pale blue and lilac; the branches intertwine with the blossoms, presenting a harmonious interplay of ink and colour. The meandering branches are as free-flowing and rhythmical as calligraphy, which shows Qi's superb mastery of the paintbrush in fully expressing the spirit of his painting subject while making any effort look effortless. The latter part of the inscription Zixue chuikong weiji di "Drifting purple snow has not reached the ground yet" highlights the spatial composition of the painting, as suggested by an ochre-coloured land, an element rare in Qi's other paintings of wisteria.

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