Guiding Principles in Chinese Artistic Sensibility: 10 Highlights from Fine Classical Chinese Paintings & Calligraphy

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Whether a narrative painting, a depiction of a landscape, or stylised calligraphy, Chinese art seeks to express inner reality that serves aesthetic, social or cultural functions. To highlight the guiding principles in Chinese artistic sensibility, we selected the following ten artworks from our upcoming 2017 New York Fine Classical Chinese Paintings & Calligraphy auction as examples. Click ahead to preview the star lots.

Fine Classical Chinese Paintings & Calligraphy
New York | 14 September  

Guiding Principles in Chinese Artistic Sensibility: 10 Highlights from Fine Classical Chinese Paintings & Calligraphy

  • Zhu Jianshen (Emperor Xianzong), CARP, ink and color on paper, framed. Estimate $50,000-70,000.
    Property from the collection of Ann and Gordon Getty
    A number of Ming emperors enjoyed painting as a pastime. Emperor Xianzong, whose reign was marked by political stability and economic prosperity, was also a skilled painter. The use of precise delineation and subtle ink in his painting satisfy a loyalty to the style of Song Academy paintings, while the occasional accent of colour adds vitality and life to the painting.

  • Xuanye (Emperor Kangxi), Poem in Running Script, ink on satin, hanging scroll. Estimate $100,000-150,000.
    Property of the Rende Zhai (House of Benevolent Learning) collection.
    This artwork once served as an imperial gift from Emperor Kangxi to court official Ji Yu, and the written poem describes the pleasures of seeing early plum blossoms in spring. Kangxi is the longest reigning emperor in Chinese history. In his limited free time he was a versatile talent who excelled in calligraphy with an output of more than ten thousand hanging scrolls and handscrolls. The current calligraphy belongs to the Rende Zhai collection, assembled between 1949 through the 1970s in Hong Kong by Dr. Olaf K. Skinsnes (1917-1997) who was a distinguished doctor and professor for the study and treatment of leprosy.

  • Wang Hui, Landscape after Ni Zan, ink on paper, hanging scroll. Estimate $300,000-500,000.
    In this painting, the artist Wang Hui demonstrates an intimate knowledge of an artwork once in the collection of Xu Gaoyang, which unfortunately has not survived. The lost painting, also an imitative work of art, was an appropriation of the Rongxi Studio by Ni Zan, currently in the Taipei National Museum permanent collections. More robust and energized, Wang Hui’s brushwork and treatment of details demonstrate a well-founded classical training in a range of different styles and techniques beyond Ni Zan, and an ability to seamlessly assimilate a vast repertoire of approaches into a coherent and unique style of his own.

  • Gao Fenghan, Finger Paintings of Various Subjects, ink and color on paper, album of eight leaves. Estimate $55,000-75,000.
    Gao Fenghan was an artist who broke away from traditional confines to paint with his fingers instead of a brush. His freehand renderings do not lose their real form but nevertheless gave strong impetus to the development of expressionist styles during the mid-Qing dynasty. In this album Gao Fenghan captures the tenderness of seemingly mundane objects, such as lotus fruits and fresh fish, highlighting what is genuinely worth appreciating but often overlooked.  

  • Shen Zongjing, Waterfall in the Pine Forest, ink and color on silk, hanging scroll. Estimate $25,000-45,000.
    The rocks and trees in this artwork are depicted in a way that enforce the contours, giving an impression of substantial weight and proud bearing. Shen Zongjing was the son of a leading artist who won imperial favour. Genetically predisposed to the arts and rigorously trained in classical techniques, he grew to become an artist of formidable talent. Most of his paintings are in ink only, and he is well-known for landscapes of the antique and rustic style which evokes influences from Ni Zan, Huang Gongwang, Juran, and Dong Qichang.

  • Wu Changshuo, Pine Tree, ink and color on paper, framed. Estimate $70,000-90,000.

    Property from the estate of George C.C. Ho.
    The ancient pine is a time-honoured subject in Chinese art. Its gnarled natural form reminds us, with dignity, that every good life has endured extraordinary amounts of suffering, distress and drama. The painting was done in freehand brushstrokes, charged with power and force that the artist accumulated from a good foundation in the study of seal-carving and stele-style calligraphy.

  • Wu Hufan, Returning Home Late from Fishing, ink and color on paper, hanging scroll. Estimate $100,000-150,000.
This expansive landscape pays tribute to the Yuan dynasty master Wu Zhen through the use of his signature textured brushstrokes that communicates abstract energy and dynamic balance. The overall composition however is more delicate than any Wu Zhen painting, made surprisingly modern through the use of light pigments and soft washes, and inveigles the viewer to travel downstream with the fisherman who is returning home late from fishing.  

  • Zhang Daqian, Blue Cliff and Old Tree, ink and color on paper, mounted for framing. Estimate $450,000-650,000.
    This work is among Zhang Daqian's most dramatic and innovative landscapes, in his use of vivid azurite and malachite colors, and in his deviation from recognizable representation. This artwork was painted from a spectacular lakeside residence in Brazil and dated 1968 – a time when the artist reached a new height in artistic vision while faced with a decline in ocular vision.

  • Xie Zhiliu, Old Trees and Layers of Mountains, ink and color on paper, mounted for framing. Estimate $120,000-180,000.
    At the time of this painting in 1941, Xie Zhiliu was thirty-one years old and already a well-known successful artist. This ambitious blue-green landscape captures his extensive training in favor of historical styles, especially in the high style of Song and Yuan masters. There is a distinct sense of order and serenity to paintings from this period of his career, wherein the artist held prettiness close at heart without compromising on either elegance or technique.

  • Chen Peiqiu, Flowers And Birds After Song Dynasty Masters, 1980, Album of ten leaves. Estimate $150,000–200,000.
    Chen Peiqiu was fascinated by the ancient masters of traditional Chinese painting. She copied their works – a foundational practice to learn the medium – attempting to match the masters’ use of the Chinese brush and the ways in which they infused their compositions with energy and spirit. As she developed as an artist, Chen mixed traditional brushstrokes with her own free-hand style and daring use of colour. Thanks to the distinctive idiom she created, the artist has been able to capture her subject matter – most often birds, flowers and landscapes – with vivid elegance.


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