A SELECTION OF CERAMICS FROM THE RENDE ZHAI COLLECTION (LOTS 1603-1643)
The Rende Zhai (House of Benevolent Learning) Collection of ceramics and works of art was carefully assembled by Dr. Olaf K. Skinsnes (1917-1997) from 1949 through the 1970s. Dr. Skinsnes was born in Henan in 1917 to parents who were medical missionaries, and after having been raised in China, moved to his parents' original home in the midwestern United States to attend university. It was during this time that he became increasingly dismayed at his fellow American's limited knowledge of China. Dr. Skinsnes not only deeply loved China, but felt that art was one of the most effective vehicles for improving mutual understanding between East and West. The Rende Zhai Collection was therefore formed as a teaching collection, used to share with those in the West the rich culture and history of China.
After completing his M.D. and Ph. D., Dr. Skinsnes intended to return to China, a wish shared by his new wife, Elizabeth Anderson Skinsnes (known as Si Anli), a nurse who had her own lifelong interest in China. However, circumstances caused the couple to relocate to Hong Kong, where they lived and worked for ten years, focusing on the study and treatment of leprosy. A man of many talents, while in Hong Kong Dr. Skinsnes designed the Diamond Hill Lutheran Church, the Yuanlong Church and the Hay Ling Chou Center for people who had leprosy. The couple subsequently returned to the United States, where Dr. Skinsnes joined the faculty of the University of Chicago. Later, in 1967, they moved to Hawaii, to help develop the University of Hawaii's John A. Burns School of Medicine, although they would continue to visit Hong Kong on an annual basis.
Although having lived all over the world, Dr. Skinsnes always longed to return to China, the land of his birth. Throughout the years, he kept in close touch with friends and colleagues in China. In 1985, his friend Dr. George Hatem (Ma Haide, 1910-1988), who had participated in the Long March, invited Dr. Skinsnes to serve as an advisor at the Sun Yat Sen University of Medical Sciences. Dr. and Mrs. Skinsnes eagerly accepted and moved to Guangzhou, where they were amongst the first Americans to be granted permanent residency. Fluent in Chinese and relishing local life, the couple veered away from the foreign settlements and moved into a smaller, local neighborhood, where they remained until 1995, when health issues forced them to return to their family in the United States. In recognition of his devotion to the country, the Chinese government awarded Dr. Skinsnes the Friendship Medal in 1992.
Christie's is very pleased to be offering a selection of ceramics from the Rende Zhai collection this September. Works of art from this important collection are also being offered separately as lots 1213, 1221, 1223 and 1273.