28 May 2010
QI BAISHI (1863-1957)
Hanging scroll, ink and colour on paper
69.5 x 34.3 cm. (27 3/8 x 13½ in.)
Inscribed and signed, bearing one seal of the artist
The painting depicts plump Chinese cabbage as the central subject matter, accompanied by winter bamboo shoots on the side. Chinese cabbage was a staple for northern folk, as it was easy to store and could be eaten throughout the year. It was said that the Chinese cabbage was one of Qi's favourite vegetables, and he wrote that a meal with winter bamboo shoots and Chinese cabbage was better than any exotic, gastronomic feast. In Appreciating Qi Baishi's Paintings, there is an anecdote about a student who wished to paint Chinese cabbage. After numerous failed attempts he approached Qi for advice. Qi remarked that the student lacked 'the spirit of vegetables', and he reprimanded the student for trying to paint only with the skill of his brush and for not experiencing that which he wished to paint. Qi believed that one could not paint the true likeness of Chinese cabbage, or of any other fruit or vegetable, without spending time working on a farm, planting cabbages, and observing how they grow. Vegetables not only reveals Qi's skilful use of ink in varying degrees of light and dark but also gives depth to the leaves of the cabbage against a white backdrop.
Qi saw beauty in the simple things in life and delineated them with precision, which reflected his relationship with fruits and the farm; in turn, he allowed his artistic creation and sense perception to shine through with clarity and unadorned beauty.
Lot 831, 30 November 1984, Fine Classical and Modern Chinese Paintings, Christie's New York.
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