25 May 2009
XU BEIHONG (1895-1953)
Sketch of Jacques Reclus
Scroll, mounted and framed, charcoal on paperboard
44 x 30.5 cm. (17 1/4 x 12 in.)
Inscribed, with one seal of the artist
Dated 16 May, 1931
Lots 693 - 698
Collection of Mr. Jacques Reclus
Jacques Reclus (1894-1984) was born in Paris, France. He came from a long line of intellectuals and revolutionaries and was a descendent of renowned geographer Elisee Reclus (1830-1905). The young Reclus travelled to China in the 1920s and took up teaching positions at universities in Beijing, Kunming, and Shanghai, including Peking University. The Life Guardian Weekly once used "ke lui", the very same characters in his Chinese name, to praise Reclus' personality and achievement. It honoured Reclus as someone with great kindness and eloquence in the Chinese language. His contribution as an educator was also widely recognized.
Reclus married Huang Shuyi in 1939 after residing in China for many years. His amicability won him friendships with many artists, as seen in a series of paintings dedicated by the artists to Reclus (lots 693 to 698). According to Reclu's daughter Magali Reclus, artist Xu Beihong stayed with the Reclus family briefly and the two families remained in close contact. Lot 693 is a portrait Xu dedicated to Reclus in which his image was vividly portrayed through a brilliant composition.
Lots 694 and 695 are paintings dedicated to Reclus by artist Qi Baishi. In 1939, Qi gave a letter to the newly-wedded Reclus through Mei Yiqi (1889-1962). Mei, then Chancellor of Tsinghua University, was the witness at the Reclus wedding. It was believed that the letter contained a painting by Qi as a gift to the couple; unfortunately the work was lost and only the envelope remained. In 1948, Reclus was a guest at the wedding of Wu Zhuoren and Xiao Shufang, where Xu Beihong seved as the witness. Wu later dedicated a number of fresh and lively paintings to Reclus as a token of their friendship (lots 696 to 698).
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