An esthetic offering of exceptional classical Chinese paintings and contemporary asian art at the Bonhams Hong Kong 2012 Spring auctions

26 May 2012, Fine Chinese Paintings & Contemporary Asian Art

The Bonhams Hong Kong sale of Fine Chinese Paintings and Contemporary Asian Art held on 26 May at the Island Shangri-La Hotel offers over 170 lots of exceptional works with a total estimate of HK$38,000,000 to HK$57,000,000 for collectors and connoisseurs of different art forms.

Classical Chinese Paintings Highlights

Lot 268, Xu Beihong's Cat and Rock, is estimated at HK$400,000 - 600,000. As the authoritative realism painter of China, Xu captures the liveliest moments of animals with his sharp and precise brush strokes. Cat and Rock is full of the joy of life. It depicts a vigorous cat squatting on the rock with alert ears and a bulging gaze. The cat stretches its front claws out slightly, shifting its weight to the back and wiggles its tail. It seems like the cat is going to pounce on its target at any moment. The painting is dynamic yet presented in the stationary pose of the cat and is full of tension. This reveals Xu's acute observation, solid foundation of sketching and mature brushstroke technique.

Lot 281, Zhang Daqian (1899-1983)'s Reading in Summer, is estimated at HK$500,000 - 800,000. The painting was finished a day before the Chung Yeung Festival of the Yiyou year, 13th October 1945. Zhang adapted the Dunhuang style and painted with ingenious composition and elegant color application. Beside the bushes of banana leaves, a circular garden window and a floral curtain, there is a beauty sitting in front of a red table. She is reading but yet her gaze seems to be fixed onto the viewer. The traditional painting on the wall enriches the layers and blurs the line between the painting and reality. In terms of the character depiction, the lady was placed in a graceful pose and the details were done in delicate brush stokes. This painting was acquired successively by people in high society and notable scholars including Zhang's friend Lu Danlin, artist Fang Junbi and Professor Sheung Chung Ho.

Lot 304, Li Keran (1907-1989)'s Landscape of Li River, is estimated at HK$2,500,000-3,500,000. This splendid and innovative landscape painting was done in 1963 and is the most iconic work among his early Li River landscape paintings. Li Keran combined the traditional Chinese painting's theory of 'Grand View Small' where one could see the entire scencery from a vantage point and the Western painting's 'Perspective' and 'Light' techniques to create his own style. The artist's vision of "a multitude of craggy mountains towering over a meandering river" in Landscape of Li River is a brilliant representation of the style. This landmark painting bears the seal of 'Bao Gu Zhai', a renowned antique store in Bejing, as well as an old tag of a Beijing antique shop. This painting was exhibited and published in Modern Chinese Painting and Calligraphy from the Collection of the Kau Chi Society of Chinese Art, the Art Gallery of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, in 1987.

Lot 316, Lu Yanshao (1909-1993)'s Mount Yandang, is estimated at HK$700,000 - 900,000. Finished in 1979, this painting is the fine work of Lu's later paintings. Lu traveled to the famous mountains in China after his middle age. Moved by the soaring mountains and the swirling clouds, he was so inspired and developed his personal innovative techniques for representing landscape in Chinese traditional paintings, namely the application of blank space, the bulky use of ink and contoured cloud and water. In the foreground of the painting, Lu depicted the rocks with rough brush strokes. The surroundings trees grow along the edges, which suggest the mountains are extremely perilous. Lu drew several bulky ink spots with occasional blank spaces in the middle. The contrast between black and white represents the clouds drifting between the peaks. In the background, Lu used contours to outline the movements of clouds in the mountains. The interaction of different techniques results in a coherent and balanced structure.

Lot 337, Huang Zhou (1925-1997)'s Donkeys Carrying Provisions, is estimated at HK$1,000,000 - 1,500,000. The Cultural Revolution can be regarded as the watershed of Huang's artistic life. Donkeys Carrying Provisions was done in 1975, when Huang had survived the most torturous period in his life, which shows the Huang's artistic vision after his re-engagement with arts. He used carefree brushstrokes to depict the slow movements of over 10 donkeys carrying provisions. Under the dedicated layering, this painting provides a vivid representation of donkeys in various positions. As for the herders, Huang combined the technique of sketching and traditional Chinese figure drawings. On one hand, the facial features of the young girl and the old man were finished with more details. On the other hand, the clothes were simply outlined and bore a charcoal touch. All these preserve the bold spirit of the ethnic minority people in a highly realistic way.

Lot 281
Zhang Daqian (1899-1983)
Reading in Summer
Ink and color on paper, hanging scroll
49cm x 86.5cm
Estimate: HK$500,000 - 800,000

Lot 304
Li Keran (1907-1989)
Landscape of Li River
Ink and color on paper, hanging scroll
70cm x 46cm
Estimate: HK$2,500,000 - 3,500,000

Lot 316
Lu Yanshao (1909-1993)
Mount Yandang
Ink and color on paper, hanging scroll
134cm x 66cm
Estimate: HK$700,000 - 900,000

Lot 337
Huang Zhou (1925-1997)
Donkeys Carrying Provisions
Ink and color on paper, hanging scroll
177cm x 94.5cm
Estimate: HK$1,000,000 - 1,500,000

Contemporary Chinese and Asian Art Highlights

Lot 275, Lin Fengmian (1900-1991)'s Lady with a Vase of Flowers, is estimated at HK$1,800,000 - 2,500,000. Henry Matisse is one of those Western artists whom Lin appreciated and one can easily notice from his use of color and white lines that Lin was inspired by Matisse. The translucency of the fabric and vase was inspired by Chinese ceramics, while the smooth outline of the lady is similar to those in Han and Tang paintings. The current collector of this painting is a former British diplomat, who acquired this painting from Lin in his studio in Shanghai in 1964. According to the chronology of Lin, the year 1964 witnessed frequent diplomatic activities between China and the rest of the world. It was recorded that "...many diplomats directly solicited paintings from Lin at his home on Nanchang road during that year", which corresponds to how the recent owner obtained this painting.

Lot 345, Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010)'s A Fish Pool in the Mountain City, is estimated at HK$ 8,000,000 - 12,000,000. Finished in 1987, this tall format allows Wu Guanzhong to channel Fan Kuan (active 990-1030) and the great masters of early Northern Song dynasty monumental landscape painting. With a towering central peak flanked by less dramatic mountains, the improbably sharp drop-offs and steep inclines of the mountains heighten the vertical power of the composition. The frontal perspective unified by the mountain endows the scene with a serene and balanced mood. As the flowing lines suggesting the mountains' forms can be interpreted as calligraphic, the black contours of the houses' roofs are reminiscent of the character for people (人), reiterating that the structures at the foot of the high mountains are the domain of humanity. While maintaining the literati ideal of capturing the form-likeness of the scene through the use of abstract, calligraphically inspired brush work, Wu Guanzhong revives one of the most hallowed traditions in Chinese landscape painting. The present collector acquired this piece from Hefner Galleries, New York, in 1989. The painting is published in Chinese Modern and Contemporary Paintings: Wu Guanzhong (People's Fine Arts Publishing House, Beijing, 1996) and Volume 3 of The Complete Works of Wu Guanzhong (Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, Changsha, 2007).

Lot 359, Ju Ming (Zhu Ming, b.1938)'s Living World Series: A Pair of Classical People, is estimated at HK$3,000,000 - 5,000,000. These sponge-molded bronze sculptures were created in 1983. This pair of sculptures can be regarded as the most important works among the early production of the Living World Series. In 1981, Ju went to New York alone to concentrate on his artistic creation. He launched an exhibition at the Max Hutchinson Gallery in New York to great success and garnered an international audience. The Living World Series became more and more mature during this period. These two life-size sculptures, in unique edition, represent a pair of classical figures with long clothes and formal hats. It seems like that they are having a constant philosophical dialog with each other while standing apart. The present collector acquired this pair from Max Hutchinson Gallery on 8th June 1984.

Lot 361, Jiang Guofang (b.1951)'s Forbidden City in Silence, is estimated at HK$500,000 - 800,000. Jiang has lived in Beijing since his adolescence and is particularly interested in the Forbidden City. Over the last ten years, he has created many pieces for the Forbidden City series in which he combines the esthetics of classical Western oil painting with classical Chinese painting. This painting shows the typical techniques that Jiang use, where warm lighting at the center reflects the facial expressions and sumptuous clothes of the women. The strong contrast between light and dark, in fact, represents the mysterious atmosphere of the palace and the subtle inner emotions of the two women – quiet, anxious and even melancholic.

Lot 372, Theo Meier (Swiss, 1908-1982)'s Balinese Girls, is estimated at HK$1,500,000 - 2,500,000. Painted in 1973, this large oil painting portrays an offering procession with Balinese girls giving offerings to most likely the Sea God, supervised by the priest on the left. Meier's adaptation of a primitive artistic language is evident in this painting. Similar to Gauguin, his works are highly stylised in the broad, flattened use of color and rough brushstrokes. Another characteristic is the bold use of yellow and red resulting in a naturalistic and tropical feeling prevalent in both Gauguin and Meier's paintings. This ambiance, in the context of Balinese Girls, denotes the artist's nostalgia for the paradise where he once lived for 15 years.

Lot 275
Lin Fengmian (1900-1991)
Lady with a Vase of Flowers
Ink and color on paper, framed and glazed
66cm x 66cm
HK$1,800,000 - 2,500,000

Lot 345
Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010)
A Fish Pool in the Mountain City
Oil on canvas, framed
105cm x 78cm
HK$ 8,000,000 - 12,000,000

Lot 359
Ju Ming (Zhu Ming, b.1938)
Living World Series: A Pair of Classical People
A pair of cast bronze sculptures
175cm x 45.5cm x 58.5cm and 170cm x 63.5cm x 63.5cm
HK$3,000,000 - 5,000,000

Lot 361
Jiang Guofang (b.1951)
Forbidden City in Silence
Oil on canvas, framed
180cm x 160cm
HK$500,000 - 800,000

Lot 372
Theo Meier (Swiss, 1908-1982)
Balinese Girls
Oil on canvas, framed
200cm x 140cm
HK$1,500,000 - 2,500,000

Representatives of the media are invited to come to the public previews and the auction on 26 May.

For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, go to www.bonhams.com.
For more information please contact

Bonhams
Mabel Au-Yeung
+852 9038 8939
mabelay@gmail.com


NOTES FOR EDITORS

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