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ZHANG DAQIAN (1899-1983)
PROPERTY OF A HONG KONG COLLECTOR
ZHANG DAQIAN (1899-1983)

Red Trees in Autumn Mountain

Details
ZHANG DAQIAN (1899-1983)
Red Trees in Autumn Mountain
Inscribed and signed, with one painted seal of the artist
Framed, ink and colour on board
106.8 x 47.5 cm. (42 x 18 3/4 in.)
20th Century
Provenance
Lot 22, 30 April 2000, Fine Modern and Contemporary Chinese Paintings, Christie's Hong Kong.
Literature
Han Mo-The Landscapes of Zhang Daqian, Han Mo Publishing Co., Ltd., Hong Kong, April 1993, Vol. 39, pp. E6-E7.

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Yanie Choi
Yanie Choi

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Lot Essay

Radiating with intense red and sumptuous gold, the magnificent Red Trees in Autumn Mountain exudes grandeur and radiance, the two qualities that Zhang Daqian considered most important in his paintings. Zhang was a keen follower of Shitao's works as early as the 1920s; and by the mid-1930s, he discovered Dong Qichang's works and began to systematically trace the progression of colouring technique by ancient Chinese painters, from Six Dynasties painter Zhang Sengyao (502-557AD) to Northern Song artists. He had great reverence for these painters and would often pay tribute to them through inscribing their names on his landscape paintings. While adhering to Shitao's composition and drawing technique, Zhang was now opened to the novel universe of bright and bold colours.

In this undated painting, Zhang attributed his inspiration to Zhang Sengyao, whose works were long lost and only survived by Dong Qichang's copies. Zhang was however a universalist; he learned and imitated from all sources he found favorable, historical or contemporary. His "attribution" likely refers to multiple influences; they could be other fellow painters, his imagination, or a re-interpretation of a historical methodology. In the attempt to revive the tradition of blue-and-green landscape so revered in the Tang dynasty, Zhang reiterated the importance of colour, and then added red and gold lavishly, to create his own version of landscape painting "in the style of Zhang Sengyao".

Another unique feature of this painting is Zhang Daqian's experimentation with using different painting media. By the time he painted Red Trees in Autumn Mountain, Zhang must have been familiar with the application and the properties of mineral colour pigments and was seeking new ways to challenge his painterly technique. Not content to use paper only, he went on to explore new materials such as gold, wood, wallpaper, and stone. This painting was painted on a highly absorbent wood board, a medium rarely seen among Zhang's works. The various intensities of ink rendered the texture of the wood visible, accentuated the rich layering of the landscape; to be complemented by finely outlined clouds, trees, and houses. Zhang Daqian generously enriched the painting with details and colours that capture viewers' delight - the bright red and black tree branches, the turquoise and almost silvery stream, and the gold is reflected in various tones of brightness when light is cast from different angles. Zhang's manipulation of splashed ink suggests the painting was created at a much later date when he became aware of his extraordinary capacity in using colours. Zhang was attentive even to the smallest details - where the wood surface made it impossible to impress an artist's seal, Zhang hand-painted it using cinnabar paste instead.

Red Trees in Autumn Mountain is a modern masterpiece with the inheritance of an antique scholarly tradition. Through expressive yet somehow traditional in composition, this work bridges the gap between Zhang's early gongbi works with his later freehand splashed ink and colour paintings, and serves as a reminder of Zhang's heavy reference and borrowing from his predecessors.

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