29 November 2009
WU CHANGSHUO (1844-1927)
Wisteria and Rock
Hanging scroll, ink and colour on paper
197 x 113 cm. (77 1/2 x 44 1/2 in.)
Entitled, inscribed and signed, with three seals of the artist
Dated fifth month, jiachen year of the Guangxu era (1904)
Four collectors' seals
Chinese paintings are intriguing in part because they are revealing on many levels-not only do the pictures themselves and their inscriptions convey information but so do the seals of the artists and collectors. The seal that reads bungado in Japanese (also the name of his art gallery) belongs to Mr. Eda Yuji (iG), who was an art dealer in Tokyo who specialized in seals and Chinese paintings in 1960's. He often visited China and brought back to Japan fine calligraphy and paintings. He typically authenticated paintings by applying his collector's seal Shiyouxuan.
This painting has another collector's seal Lingzhi Caotang, which belonged to Mr. Akabane Untei (x). He learnt calligraphy by imitating works by Wang Xizhi and other great masters and became well known as a calligrapher by the time he was in his 30's after World War II. Later he changed his style to the calligraphy of monks, as he did not want to be known as merely a follower of Wang Xizhi. Because he owned the Akabane Glass company, he practiced calligraphy for his own enjoyment and was free to develop his own style.
Mr. Akabane had many opportunities to see fine works of art and so was able to learn what beauty is. His collection expanded from Chinese scholar objects to include Ming and Qing dynasty calligraphy and Japanese paintings. One of his favorite possessions was the Japanese painting Portrait of Reiko by the renowned artist Kishida Ryusei (1891-1929). Nishikawa Yasushi (1902-1989), one of Japan's great modern calligraphers, suggested to Akabane Untei that he make a seal that read Thatched Hall of Reiko or Thatched Hall of Lingzhi. Mr. Akabane decided to order a seal with the latter phrase from Yamada Shohei (1899-1962), who was a famous seal carver who had studied with Wu Changshuo in China.
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