Zhang Daqian’s HK$60m Painting – Top Lot of Christie's Fine Chinese Modern Paintings Sale

In Hong Kong Spring Sales, Christie’s will feature paintings with estimates over HK$10m in its Fine Chinese Modern Paintings sale. Amongst these artworks, Zhang Daqian’s Viewing the Waterfall and Lofty Scholar by Lush Trees lead the sale. The former, one of the artists’ most important splashed paintings, has an estimate of HK$60m - 80m while the latter, a painting from his ‘Poetry Series’, is estimated at HK$35m - 45m.

Zhang broke the norms of traditional Chinese painting methods by using splashed colours. Viewing the Waterfall is the most prominent work to illustrate his ‘splashed colour technique’. The lower register of the painting is filled with dense, dark ink and deep-blues. We then see a scene of scholars gazing at a distant waterfall, before ascending through dilute washes coloured mist from the mountain torrent.

The landscape above the waterfall is absorbed into a radiant surface of blue and green. The lines of mountains are visible under the darkness of the ink-saturated field of blue pigment below. This style of splashed painting is rare as it was Zhang's first time using splashed colours to paint. It was created in 1963 when Zhang was on his tropical retreat outside São Paolo.

Zhang Daqian on his retreat outside São Paolo.

Zhang favoured this painting. When he moved from Brazil to California, he even brought along his painting and hung it in his meeting room. As this is one of the most valued works of Zhang’s, it has a very high estimate of HK$60m - 80m.

Another painting by Zhang is Lofty Scholar by Lush Trees which estimates at HK$18m - 26m. He painted a solitary scholar beneath towering tree trunks, inspired by a four-line verse from Tang dynasty author Sikong Tu Zhang. Zhang inscribed the last two lines upon the painting: ‘I inclined toward the Way in youth, grown old I reject the mundane world. Among jagged peaks and towering trunks, jade-green moss perfumes the sunlight.’

These lines are suffused with a deep affinity for Daoist ideals, calling for a departure from the mundane world and a return to nature. Like many others at that time, Zhang respected that concerns of Confucian tradition but pursued Daoist ideals. His repeated exploration of Daoist matters reflects the mental landscape of his final years.

Moving on to another artist’s work, Fu Baoshi’s Asking the Child under Pinetree is also one of the top lots in this sale, with an estimate of HK$35m - 45m. The painting was part of the Bai Yun Tang collection which was amassed by the renowned artist Huang Junbi. Huang is one of the masters of Chinese landscape painting, and together with Zhang Daqian and Pu Xinyu, they are known as the ‘Three Masters Who Crossed the Sea’ as they all left mainland China and settled in Taiwan. Asking the Child Under Pinetree was painted by Fu Baoshi for Huang in 1943.

In the 1940s, Fu retreated to Chongqing due to outbreak of war with Japan. His works were based on the theme of ‘Reconstruction of a certain beautiful story from history’, conveying loyalty to and sorrow for China. Fu invoked history to seek out the enduring virtues of figures from the past and cited poems to encourage meditation on legends.

Fu’s Playing Flute in Dongshan is also one of his paintings from the 1940s. His ‘Poetry Series’ features not only figures from the war period, but also many classical subjects from the Eastern Jin, Sui and Tang periods. This particular painting’s protagonist is Xie An (320-385) from the Eastern Jin period, who was also known as Xie Dongshan. Xie was a talented scholar from a noble family, who spent years resisting the Jin court’s requests to enter imperial service.

Fu Baoshi

However, he eventually accepted the Jin court’s entreaties to serve, and returned to the capital. In 383, Xie secured the continuation of the dynasty at the battle of the Fei River. Playing Flute in Dongshan is one of the artist’s wartime oeuvres that depicts his love for the country. Its estimate is HK$26m - 35m and it belonged to the Robert Chang Collection previously. 

Top lots with estimates over HK$10m

Zhang Daqian (1899 - 1983). Viewing the Waterfall. 1963. (Scroll, mounted on wooden board and framed, ink and colour on paper)  

Lot no.: 1379
Size: 134 x 68cm
Inscribed and signed: with one seal of the artist
Dated: twelfth month, guimao year (1963)

  • Christie’s Hong Kong, Fine Modern and Contemporary Chinese Paintings, 25 April 2004, Lot 41;

  • Previously from the Collection of Chai Sian Kwan

Estimate: HK$60,000,000 - 80,000,000

Fu Baoshi (1904 -1965). Asking the Child under Pinetree. 1943. (Unmounted scroll, framed, ink and colour on paper)

Lot no.: 1431
Size: 108.5 x 31cm
Inscribed and signed: with three seals of the artist
Dated: twelfth month, guiwei year (1943)
Provenance: The Collections of Pai Yun Tang, Volume 2, Cathay Art Museum, August 1981, pp. 204-205, pl. 106
Estimate: HK$35,000,000 - 45,000,000

Fu Baoshi (1904 -1965). Playing Flute in Dongshan. (Scroll, mounted and framed, ink and colour on paper)

Lot no.: 1291
Size: 103.3 x 29cm
Signed: with two seals of the artist

  • Sotheby’s Hong Kong, Important Chinese Paintings from the Robert Chang Collection (Part 3), 6 April 2010, Lot 520;

  • Previously in the collection of Robert Chang;

  • Previously in the collection of Tsai Chen-nan

Estimate: HK$26,000,000 - 35,000,000

Zhang Daqian (1899 -1983). Lofty Scholar by Lush Trees. 1982. (Scroll, mounted and framed, ink and colour on paper)

Lot no.: 1448
Size: 177 x 61cm
Inscribed and signed: with five seals of the artist
Dated: tenth month, renxu year (1982)
Provenance: From an important overseas Chinese collection (Lots 1442-1451)
Estimate: HK$18,000,000 - 26,000,000

Huang Binhong (1864-1955). Dwelling in Mountain. (Hanging scroll, ink and colour on paper)

Lot no.: 1437
Size: 146.3 x 64.3cm
Inscribed and signed: with three seals of the artist
Provenance: Purchased by Dr. David Wong in 1970's in Hong Kong and passed down by descent
Estimate: HK$15,000,000 - 18,000,000

Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010). Yulong Mountain Village. (Scroll, mounted and framed, ink and colour on paper)

Lot no.: 1488
Size: 123.5 x 95.5cm
Inscribed and signed: With three seals of the artist
Provenance: From a private American collector (Lots 1487-1489)
Estimate: HK$12,000,000 - 18,000,000

Qi Baishi (1863-1957). Insects and Leaves. (Hanging scroll, framed, ink and colour on paper)

Lot no.: 1461
Size: 103.5 x 34.5cm
Inscribed and signed: with two seals of the artist
Titleslip inscribed and signed: by Jiang Wenjin (1906-1981)
Dated: autumn, bingxu year (1946)
Provenance: Acquired directly from the artist by Jiang Wenjin, and thence by descent
Estimate: HK$10,000,000 - 20,000,000

Xie Zhiliu (1910-1997). Eight Dogs. (Eight scrolls, mounted as handscroll, ink and colour on paper)

Lot no.: 1438
Size: 42.5 x 41cm (each scroll)
Entitled, inscribed and signed: with a total of sixty-one seals
Colophon inscribed and signed: by the artist, with two seals
Dated: summer, sixth month, jiayin year (1974)
Provenance: The current collector purchased this painting from an exhibition of the artist at the China Cultural Relics Exhibition Hall in the China Resources Building, Hong Kong in 1986, and has remained in his collection for over three decades
Estimate: HK$8,000,000 - 12,000,000

Auction details

Auction house: Christie’s Hong Kong
Sale: Fine Chinese Modern Paintings
Lots offered: 356
2018/5/25|10:30am - 8pm
2018/5/26 - 28|10:30am - 6:30pm
2018/5/29|10:30am(Lots 1201 - 1330)
2018/5/29|2:30pm(Lots 1331 - 1556)