REN RENFA (1255-1327)
Five Drunken Kings Return on Horses
Handscroll, ink and colour on paper
35.5 x 212.5 cm. (14 x 83 3/4 in.)
Two artist's seals
Colophons by Chen Jiru (1558-1639), with two seals, and an anonymous collector of the 17th century
Thirty-six collectors' seals including eight of Liang Qingbiao (1620-1691), four of Geng Zhaozhong (1640-1687), eight of Emperor Qianlong (reigned 1736-1796), one of Emperor Jiaqing (reigned 1796-1820) and three of Emperor Xuantong (reigned 1909-1911)
Ren Renfa, who was born near modern Shanghai, was one of the last great painters of imperial horses in a tradition begun by Han Gan in the Tang dynasty. Successful from a young age, Ren Renfa placed first in the local government exams when only 17 years old. Despite the change of government with the fall of the Song, he served the Mongol court in numerous important official posts. Hard-working and practical, Ren Renfa distinguished himself as a civil servant, especially in the area of water control, and retired only a year before his death.
Although also a respected calligrapher, Ren Renfa is best known for his paintings of horses and grooms. Using strong outline strokes and broad areas of colour wash, the faces and postures of his subjects convey personality and activity. Comparing this scroll to his most highly regarded surviving horse paintings in the Cleveland Museum in Ohio, in the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, and in the Palace Museum , Beijing (all of which are painted on silk), Ren Renfa's painting style remains very consistent and several of the animals and men strongly resemble ones in other paintings, suggesting he developed a repertoire of stock figures.
Property from the Estate of Walter Hochstadter.
Walter Hochstadter's life revolved around China and its rich art and culture. Born in Augsburg, Germany in 1914, he spent most of his life traveling the globe until he passed away in Australia in 2007. In his early twenties, Mr. Hochstadter journeyed to China, where he studied at the College of Chinese Studies in Beijing. Constantly traveling between East and West, Mr. Hochstadter maintained homes for most of his years in Hong Kong and New York.
Although a very private individual, Mr. Hochstadter was well known among connoisseurs, scholars, and collectors of Chinese art. His clients included the most active American collectors of their day, including Avery Brundage, C.C. Wang, and J.T. Tai. Mr. Hochstadter also sold or donated art to numerous museums in the United States and Europe. In addition, he also gifted works of art to the National Palace Museum, Taipei and the University of Hong Kong, where he was named an Honorary Fellow in the late 1950s.
His dedication to the study of Chinese art resulted in the authorship of highly regarded scholarly texts on early Chinese ceramics and on the artist Shen Zhou. His later years were spent conducting research and collecting photographs for A Compendium of Chinese Paintings, in which he sought to present a canon of reliably authentic paintings by China's great masters. It is presumed that Mr. Hochstadter intended for these two paintings to form an important part of his book.
Shiqu Baoji Xubian, jian 1 in Midian Zhulin Shiqu Baoji Hebian, vol. 1, Shanghai Bookstore Publishing, 1988, p.349.
James Cahill, An Index of Early Chinese Painters and Paintings: Tang, Song and Yuan, Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1980, p.287.
Sherman E. Lee and Wai-Kam Ho, "Jen Jen-Fa: Three Horses and Four Grooms" in The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, 1961, p.72, note 4.
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