Lot 3015. Dong Qichang  (1555-1636), Landscape and Calligraphy. Handscroll, ink on silk, 36.5 x 1034 cm. (14 3/8 x 407 in.). Painting inscribed and signed, with one seal of the artist.. Calligraphy signed, with two seals of the artist. Three collectors’ seals. Frontispiece by Wang Zhideng(1535-1612), with two seals. Estimate HK$2,500,000 – HK$3,500,000 ($323,457 - $452,839). Photo Christie's Image Ltd 2016.

Artistry is largely inherent, yet can be acquired to some extent through reading and travelling. With a clear mind, mounds and gullies are formed, and the cities in Shangdong and Hubei are built.
- Essays on Paintings Theories, Dong Qichang

A prominent figure in the history of Chinese painting and calligraphy, Dong Qichang advocated the classification of Chinese paintings into Southern School and Northern School, based on the two different styles and techniques employed in landscape paintings. The Northern School was represented by artists like Li Sixun, Zhao Boju, Ma Yuan and Xia Gui, while the Southern School was represented by masters such as Guan Tong, Dong Yuan, Ju Ruan, Mi Fu and Mi Youren. Elegant, smooth and light, Dongs calligraphy stems from the characters of the Jin dynasty. His great mastery of the wrist and brush renders calligraphy with rhythm and vigour, which seems clumsy but actually very skillful. Dongs calligraphy was highly regarded by Emperor Kangxi and Qianlong, which became the model to be learnt by scholars and officials of the Qing court and hence, had a profound impact on the development of Chinese calligraphy. 

Landscape and Calligraphy is based on the poem Ode to Misty River and MountainPeaks in the collection of Wang Dingguo by Su Shi of the Song dynasty and on the painting Misty River and Mountain Peaks by the Song master Wang Shen (aka Wang Jinqin). Su Shi created the poem in 1088 for his friend, Wang Dingguo whose collection of paintings included Misty River and Mountain Peaks by Wang Jinqin. According to the colophon of this work by Dong Qichang, Misty River and Mountain Peaks was in the collection of Wang Shizhen (1526-1590) who lent it to Chen Jiru (1558-1639) for his appreciation. Chen showed the painting to his close friend Dong Qichang who regretted not being able to copy it on time and as a result, his version was not a full copy of the original work. 

Dong Qichang asked his friend Wang Zhideng (1535-1612) to furnish a frontispiece for this work. The artists friendship with his contemporaries including Chen Jiru and Wang Zhideng was depicted in another painting by Dong, Exalted Gathering in the Green Woods, now in the Minneapolis Institute of Art,Minnesota, the United States. Compare with another handscroll of Misty River and Mountain Peaks by Dong Qichang, now in the Shanghai Museum of Art, which comprises a larger landscape and a poem by Su Shi in small script. The talent of Dong Qichang is manifested through his versatile treatment of the same subject.

Christie's. 30 YEARS: THE SALE, 30 May 2016, Convention Hall


Dong Qichang: the Creater of Distorted Spatial of Chinese Landscapes Painting

Dong Qichang (董其昌, 1555–1636), courtesy name Xuanzai (玄宰), was a renowned painter, scholar, calligrapher, and art theorist of the later period of the Ming Dynasty.

Dong Qichang's work favored expression over formal likeness. He avoided anything he deemed to be slick or sentimental. This led him to create landscapes with intentionally distorted spatial features. Still his work was in no way abstract as it took elements from earlier Yuan masters. His views on expression had importance to later "individualist" painters.

He considered there to be a Northern school, represented by Zhe, and a Southern school represented by literati painters. This name is misleading as it refers to Northern and Southern schools of Chan Buddhism thought rather than geography. Hence a Northern painter could be geographically from the south and a Southern painter geographically from the north. In any event he strongly favored the Southern school and dismissed the Northern school as superficial or merely decorative.

Dong Qichang was the son of a teacher and somewhat precocious as a child. At 12 he passed the prefectural civil service examination and won a coveted spot at the prefectural Government school. He first took the imperial civil service exam at seventeen, but placed second to a cousin because his calligraphy was clumsy. This led him to train until he became a noted calligrapher. Once this occurred he rose up the ranks of the imperial service passing the highest level at the age of 35.

His positions in the bureaucracy were not without controversy. In 1605 he was giving the exam when the candidates demonstrated against him causing his temporary retirement. In other cases he insulted and beat women who came to his home with grievances. That led to his house being burned down by an angry mob. He also had the tense relations with the eunuchs common to the scholar bureaucracy. Dong's tomb was vandalized during the Cultural Revolution, and his body dressed in official Ming court robes, was desecrated by Red Guards. (Source