Qi Baishi, Flowers and Fruits | 齊白石 繁花碩果
October 8, 01:37 PM GMT
18,000,000 - 30,000,000 HKD
1864 - 1957
Flowers and Fruits
ink and colour on paper, set of four, hanging scroll
signed, inscribed, with 9 seals of the artist
When you paint meticulously, your brushwork will be restrained and your colour application is unlikely to be quaintly tasteful. It is a pity that Qingteng Laoren [Xu Wei], Li Futang [Li Shan], Meng Litang [Meng Jinyi], and many of our forefathers never heard this. Remarked by Azhi.
Loquats and Plantain Lilies:
When my contemporaries paint, they distinguish the leaves from the branches for the benefit of the ordinary viewer. I want to confuse matters, and paint differently from them. Baishi Laoren.
Pomegranates and Plumed Cockscombs:
Artists who displayed mannered affectations in paintings disgrace the true masters, and petty artisans spend all their time to flatter ignoramus. There are only a few who sell paintings in Beijing that I do not despise. Remarked by Binsheng.
Qingteng Laoren [Xu Wei], Zhu Xuege [Bada Shanren], and Dadizi [Shi Tao] were unmatched in their paintings of grapes. Lao Ping is not imitating them.
each 283.8 x 54.2 cm 111 3/4 x 21 3/8 in. (4)
設色紙本 立軸 四屏
各 283.8 x 54.2 cm 111¾x 21⅜in. (4)
Collection of Zhupingan Guan.
Christie's Hong Kong, Fine Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Chinese Paintings, 18 January 1988, lot 200.
Qi Baishi: Painting, Calligraphy, and Seal, Hong Kong Museum of Art, 1973, pl.6-9
Hsiung Shih Art Monthly, issue 204, Hsiung Shih Art Monthly Publishing House, Taipei, February, 1988, p.63
Hong Kong Museum of Art, Qi Baishi: Painting, Calligraphy, and Seal, 1973
Qi Baishi was quite prolific, but he produced very few multi-part works. The four-panel Flowers and Fruits is a colossal work spanning more than nine feet in height. According to publicly available materials, this is the largest extant multi-panel work by Qi Baishi. Only Chrysanthemums, Gourds, Hibiscus, Pine Tree (1920) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is comparable.
The four-scroll work depicts peaches, loquats and plantain lilies, pomegranates and plumed cockscombs and grapes. The peaches are scrumptious and large – myths have it that one can extend one’s life by a thousand years if the peaches are eaten. The loquats are perfectly round and wonderfully golden, symbolizing enormous wealth. Pomegranate seeds and grapes come in clusters, which imply a wish for abundant offspring. Finally, the plumed cockscombs and plantain lilies stand for advancement in career and growing wealth. The presentation of these symbolic flowers and fruit all together signify robust vitality and offer well-wishes for longevity, endless good fortune, and lasting family prosperity.
The compositions of the four paintings are dense, and the images of grapes and loquats, in particular, seem to completely fill the paper. The paintings have many inklings of the stylistic changes characteristic of the artist’s “late-life transformation” in his sixties, and many of the extant comparable pieces were made specifically for his appreciators. The long inscriptions speak much of Qi Baishi’s temperament; on each scroll, he gave critical opinion on traditional painting and was unafraid of mocking the painstaking brushwork of some of his contemporaries, revealing his undaunted determination to throw out the usual models and establish his own style. The brushwork is free, and the use of ink and colour is uninhibited, but these four paintings also reveal the influence of Xu Wei, Wu Changshuo, and other artists who employed strong, expressive brushstrokes. However, his compositions differ significantly from those of other artists, reflecting a distinctive style. Together, these four paintings have a forceful, spectacular energy. In such a grand work, the composition and brush control are particularly difficult, reflecting the full extent of Qi Baishi’s creative abilities.
Compared to Chrysanthemums, Gourds, Hibiscus, Pine Tree at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the two sets of paintings are highly consistent in size, subject matter, and the content of the inscriptions. Based on other works from the same period, Flowers and Fruits may have been painted in 1920. Some believe that both works were originally part of a single set of eight panels that were later divided in two. The present four panels formed part of the Zhupingan Guan collection, while the painter Fan Tchun-pi came to own the other half. In 1980, Fan Tchun-pi, who was living in Boston, donated the work to the Museum of Fine Arts in memory of her late husband Dr Tsen Tson Ming. The paintings bear a dedication to “Mr. Zhongshan,” which is a reference to Cao Kun, the military leader of the Zhili Clique and President of the Republic of China from 1923 to 1924.
Over the course of his life, Qi Baishi had no shortage of friends in government, but he seldom sought out their friendship. Even if a work of painting or calligraphy was made for a high official, it was part of how he made a living as a professional painter or because he was introduced by a close friend. Cao Kun was politically influential in the early years of Republican China, and he even ruled the country for a time. Some believe that Qi Baishi served as the Cao family tutor in Baoding, while others hold that he was recommended by Xia Shoutian, who was friendly with Cao Kun’s aides. From his extant oeuvre, we know that Qi created many pieces of painting and calligraphy for Cao Kun, including many outstanding pieces.
On the tenth day of the fifth lunar month in 1920, Qi Baishi dedicated the six-foot Flowers in Four Panels to Hu Egong with the inscription “Of the paintings I have made in my lifetime, these four are the fullest.” Just a few months later, he painted this set of four scrolls, which surpass Flowers in Four Panels in terms of dimensions, brushwork, composition, and density of painting.
為胡鄂公作〈花卉四屏〉可參見〈張宗憲珍藏中國近代書畫 ─ 齊白石作品集〉（香港蘇富比有限公司，二○○二年六月），圖版4