A Monumental Masterpiece by Zhang Daqian that Captures the Glory of a Chinese Warlord

Hong Kong | 2 April

A century ago, one of China's greatest warlords, Zhang Zuolin, dominated the northeast region of the country, Manchuria. He rose to power in the area dominated by the Yiwulü Mountains in Liaoning province, his base for a short-lived conquest of Peking, in 1924.

Zhang's son Xueliang, called the "Young Marshal," would become one of China's greatest military leaders during the Revolutionary period in the 1930s. After leading a plot against Chiang Kai-shek, Zhang Xueliang was placed under house arrest for 50 years. During this period, spent mostly in Taiwan, the Young Marshal collected many works made by his friend Zhang Daiqian, China's greatest living painter, often referred to as "the Chinese Picasso."

In 1969, Zhang Daqian created a monumental painting as a gift for the Young Marshal's daughter, choosing as its subject the Manchurian Mountains that figured so prominently in the family's storied history. Zhang used his signature "splash" technique to evoke the landscape with green and blue, colours representing longevity and lasting prosperity. A dramatic blur of white pigment brings to life the snow-capped summit, symbolising an auspicious and fruitful year ahead.

Redolent with meaning, the painting was intended as a gesture of respect and support for his now aged friend, who would spend several more years in detention. The Young Marshal eventually regained his freedom and immigrated to Hawaii. He would never see his beloved Yiwulü Mountains again, but the masterful painting remained in his daughter's family to the present day.

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