Lot 1041
  • 1041

Walasse Ting (Ding Xiongquan)

1,000,000 - 1,700,000 HKD
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  • Walasse Ting (Ding Xiongquan)
  • Two Girls with Red Ochre Horse (triptych)
  • stamped with the artist's seal
  • Chinese ink and acrylic on rice paper
executed in the early 1980s


Acquired directly from the artist by the present Asian owner


All three panels are in overall very good condition. These works are not examined out of frame.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

An Unbridled Spirit, Engulfing Heaven and Earth

Walasse Ting’s Triptych Two Girls with Red Ochre Horse


"Whenever I see a beautiful woman, I immediately think of fresh flowers. The beauty of flowers rinses the soul, invites melancholy, makes me love, renders me anew, encourages individuality, brings forth rebirth, and inspires me to use color. I’ve devoted my life to painting to express the new, like the beginnings of spring."

Walasse Ting


Early 20th century China was a fractious time, an age of revolution. Many young scholars ventured to other parts of the globe, hoping the move would mean new knowledge and new creative possibilities. Artists departed in droves to America, Europe, and Japan. Walasse Ting, who lived in both France and America, was one of the few who achieved a hard-won success in the international art world.


The cultural milieu of America and France inspired Walasse Ting in different ways, evident in the richness and evolution in the artist’s style. During Walasse Ting’s early period in France (1952-1956), deeply influenced by French

Abstract Expressionism, he produced a series of abstract paintings with intense, deep swathes of color rendered in a minimalist, calligraphic style. In 1957, the artist moved to New York. The city was at the time in the grips of a Warhol and Lichtenstein mania whose Pop Art – reflecting the everyday, the culture of the masses – had injected the local art scene with a jolt of energy and vitality. Walasse Ting’s response to this movement can be seen in the shift of his choice of subjects – the artist began painting the things in his life, the people, events, objects that he loved, such as women, flowers, and animals. His language of abstractionism evolved into a half-concrete expression, experimenting with fluorescent colors and acrylics. His colors grew bright and bold, like an attempt at capturing the loveliest hour of his life, to render the things he loved most in painting. It was as though the artist had at last found a method that was in harmony with his own nature, a method he spent the rest of his life mining. Walasse Ting’s paintings reached the peak of their maturity in the 1970s, an event accompanied by worldwide recognition for the artist’s works. This accomplishment was marked first by the Guggenheim Fellowship Award, which he received in 1970. In addition to galleries in New York, the artist was invited to put on solo exhibitions in Denmark, Spain, Italy, and Holland, as well as the National Gallery of Iceland. His works were also inducted into the collections at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Tate Gallery in London. The lot currently on offer, the marvelously-sized Two Girls with Red Ochre Horse, is a representative work from this period of the artist’s creative zenith.


Dazzling Vitality, A Beauty like the Morning Sun

"Sometimes I spend the entire day sipping tea, looking out the window of my studio. All I see are people scurrying here and there, as busy as ants. I want my heart to still, to toss away all my worries, and let the sunlight soak into my skin, the white clouds into my stomach. Leisurely and content, my body is like a flower on the brink of blossoming. My heart itself is a flower, blossoming right onto the canvas. A good painting must have this kind of force, giving vitality to all who have none."

Walasse Ting


The above is excerpted from a letter that Walasse Ting wrote to a friend in 1971. During his New York days, the artist was often visited by periods of homesickness, loneliness, and the typical uncertainties and confusion of life. Painting, then, was for him a salve, a method of self-revitalization. His passion toward life was directed into gorgeous colors and dynamic brushstrokes, lines with the decisiveness of calligraphy, simple lines that conveyed spirit through a minimalist form. In this way, the artist completed work after evocative work, each evincing a natural fusion of Eastern and Western culture, rupturing forth with aesthetic beauty. In Two Girls with Ochre Horse, the artist has suffused the magnificent canvas with warmth and springtime light, the dominant color of orange occupying much of the canvas and accented with regal vermillion, lemon yellow, verdant green, and ochre. Privileging “spirit” over “realism”, the artist expertly etches out the posture and mien of the women and horse with economy of brushstroke and large blocks of a single color. Here, staunch firmness and romantic lyricism coexist in concert. The swift brushstrokes reveal the artist’s proficiency and bold temperament. In the upper right corner of the canvas is a seal with the Chinese characters “flower thief.” The artist has explained that his intention is to suggest the capture of inspiration from the boundless garden of the earth, and letting it ripen into the fruits of art. He says, “Nectar can be placed in painting; flowers, in color; thievery, in speed. The divine swiftness of the brush is like an act of stealing.” Here, Walasse Ting’s daring virtuosity is on full display.


In the painting, the hairstyles, postures, and the scene of the women holding the fans playfully, idly, invokes the painting Court Ladies Wearing Flowered Headdresses by the renowned artist of the Tang dynasty, Zhou Fang. The two artists seem to have engaged in an interesting dialogue. Zhou Fang has portrayed the idleness of the ladies of the court, the two women standing opposite each other, one of them holding a long duster, teasing a small dog. Walasse Ting has rendered these traditional noblewomen in a modern way, imposing upon them a personal interpretation. The two women, baring their chests, reveal the artist’s lighthearted imagination, portraying an image of the boundlessness of spring that is free from eroticism, the painting’s vivid grace searing itself into the viewer’s memory.