The Chew Family Collection of Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy was assembled in the 60s and 70s in California. Qiu Yonghe (Thomas Chew) was born in 1905 in Liaoning Shenyang. Wu Zhongying (Joan Chew), born 1911 in Beijing, was a posthumous child of the famous revolutionary officer, General Luzhen Wu. In the 1930s, Joan studied at the University of Southern California, where she met Thomas Chew. After graduation, the married couple stayed in Los Angeles and ran the Great Wall Inc., a business specializing in the import and export of Chinese antiques and the production of custom jewelry. In 1956, the Chews moved to San Francisco and opened the China Commerce Co. Ultimately settling in Carmel, they first managed the Dolores Lodge, then acquired the building which later became China Art Center in the 1970s.
Frances Chew, the only child of Joan and Thomas, was born in 1945. She went to Mills College, later attended the Sorbonne in Paris and had taught with Yale. Just as she her career took off, her father passed away in 1972. Frances returned to be with her mother in Carmel and worked at the China Art Center. When a friend offered to help to run the business, Frances was finally able to pursue her vocation–she entered the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and started her services in the South Bronx, Rome and Haiti. In 1992, Mother Teresa asked Frances to return home to care for her mother, who passed away peacefully at home on June 24 in 2014 at the age of 102. Frances lived to March 18, 2017.
Zhang Daqian (1899-1983) who moved to California in the 1960s was a close friend of the Chew Family. Whenever Zhang visited Carmel, he stayed at the Delores Lodge. The Chews obtained from the artist classical paintings such as Tao Cheng's Wild Rabbit Amongst Bamboo and Chrysanthemum as well as fine works by Zhang himself, including the monumental horizontal scroll River and Sky Gazing After Rain in Splashed Color, the Five Fortunes gold card that Zhang inscribed with a celebratory text for the Chews' 60th birthdays, and Landscape after Shitao, which Zhang dedicated to Mr. Chew in his inscription. Zhang also viewed and inscribed other excellent works for the Chews, including Yun Shouping's album Landscapes after Song and Yuan Masters.
The Chew Family enthusiastically collected Chinese paintings and calligraphy from credible sources in California. For example, they acquired Lin Liang's scrolls (opposite page) from a certain Mr. Xia. From Lang Jingshan (1892-1995), who lent his help photographing their collection, they acquired three works by Xu Beihong and seven by Qi Baishi. From Li Lincan (1913-1999) they acquired Wen Zhengming's playing flute to the rising moon. Thomas Chew took his works to Taipei and actively sought the opinions and inscriptions of respected connoisseurs like Pu Ru (1896-1963), Zhuang Yan (1899-1980), Na Zhiliang (1908-1998), Li Lincan, and Jiao Zhaoshen (1925-1996). Mr. Chew also invited famous artists and collectors such as Huang Junbi (1898-1991) and his student Lin Qingni to view and inscribe his works when they traveled to California, and enlisted Li Damu (1926-2002) to research and write on some of the works in the collection.
Aside from a few works that appeared in the market in the early 1990's and a few other lost to theft, the Chew Family Collection has remained intact until now. The collection is clearly documented by many paper receipts and photographs from the time of acquisition, allowing us to reconstruct to the extent possible the Chew family's relationships with Zhang Daqian and Chinese paintings. In accordance with her will, the proceeds from this auction of the Chew Family Collection will go into the two trusts that she established prior to her death. The proceeds will continue her mission and will be used to benefit those in need.
Past Traveling Exhibitions Accompanying the sale in New York, two travelling exhibitions of selected works were held in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Bay Area 28 February
510 Broadway, Millbrae, CA 94030
Los Angeles 3–5 March
Sotheby’s Los Angeles
2029 Century Park East, Suite 2950, Los Angeles, CA 90067