Bada Shanren, Studio of Autumn Mountain, ink on satin, handscroll. Estimate $300,000-$500,000 from the upcoming Fine Classical Chinese Paintings & Calligraphy sale on September 19, 2013.

NEW YORK - The artist Zhu Da (1626-1705), better known as Bada Shanren, was a Ming prince and purported child prodigy. Born during the final days of his family’s regime, he sought refuge for 40 years in a monastery whilst Manchurians conquered China and established the Qing dynasty. When political uprisings subsided, Zhu Da emerged from his reclusion to become a full-time painter at which time he took the name Bada Shanren.

His works are some of the most recognizable, iconic images in Chinese painting. Simple, dramatic and mesmerizing, his minimal and gestural works are incredibly abstract and, to many viewers, conspicuously Modern in appearance. Sparse, descriptive strokes are executed explosively after much contemplation, truly embodying the Chinese idea of xieyi, creating paintings that note visual ideas. Many historians believe Bada Shanren was a mentally ill man who enjoyed making loud, disturbing noises whilst working. When signed in the traditional vertical style, his name resembles the characters for “laugh” and “cry,” implying his immense, unsettling confusion about the fate of his country and his own identity.

Authentic works by Bada Shanren rarely appear on the market, and it has been an absolute treat to spend time with two paintings of his, which will appear in our auction this Thursday. The horizontal hand scroll was a crowd favorite during our exhibitions this week – two serene, mysterious visions of light and atmospheric ink washes, accented with hints of architecture and landscape.


Bada Shanren, Pine Tree and Rock, in on paper, hanging scroll. Estimate $700,000-$900,000 from the upcoming Fine Classical Chinese Paintings & Calligraphy sale on September 19, 2013.

The hanging scroll of pine tree and rock, on the other hand, displays another dimension of Bada Sharnen’s oeuvre. Executed with such a controlled selection of varied brushstrokes and an acute consciousness of composition, the desolate uprightness of the pine tree and bare rock are captured effortlessly. Bold, anxious gestures are balanced by faint shadows and meticulous tracings of individual pine needles. Entirely performed in black ink, this work’s abstract energy can be compared to that of Chinese calligraphy.