Lot 978. Bada Shanren (1626-1705), Calligraphy. Hanging scroll, ink on paper, 150 x 42.5 cm. (59 x 16 3/4 in.). Inscribed and signed, with three seals of the artist. Dated spring, guiwei year (1703). Estimate HKD 1,200,000 - HKD 1,500,000. Price realised HKD 28,120,000. © Christie's Image Ltd 2014.
Provenance: PROPERTY OF AN ASIAN PRIVATE COLLECTOR
Lot 66, 31 May 1989, Fine Chinese Paintings, Sotheby's, New York.
Literature: Gao Yong, Taishan Canshilou canghua, Vol.5, 1929, pl.3.
Paintings and Calligraphy by Bada Shanren, vol 2, People's Fine Arts Publishing House, 1981, page 63.
Wang Fangyu, Richard M. Barnhart and Judith G. Smith ed,. Master of the Lotus Garden, The Life and Art of Bada Shanren, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990, page 276, plate 160.
Paintings and Calligraphy by Bada Shanren
Born Zhu Da, Bada Shanren was a ninth-generation descendant of the Ming-dynasty prince Zhu Quan. After the dynasty's fall, he became a Buddhist monk and adopted the pseudonym Bada Shanren until the end of his life. Known as one of the "Four Monks" of the early Qing period, Bada Shanren painted landscapes, although he did not create many, and had the mentality of a subject, abandoned by the demised Ming empire. Despite being influenced by Dong Qichang, whose landscapes are pithy and elegant, he painted fractured mountains and rivers, shrouded in a desolate aura to present a broken world and probably express sorrow over the death of the country to which he belonged.
The style and atmosphere of Bada Shanren's bird-and-flower paintings are consistent with those of his landscapes: cool and impassive. The crested mynas from his brushes all appear very obstinate, always proudly raising their heads and looking up with their eyes wide open. By painting the pupils at the upper parts of the birds' eyes, Bada Shanren gave them the cynical look of "I do not care what is happening outside my realm." The artist rarely inscribed his paintings, as doing so would disrupt the large open space that he left deliberately.
In terms of calligraphy, Bada Shanren first studied Dong Qichang's, then that by the masters of the Wei and Jin dynasties, in particular Wang Xizhi's. His running-cursive script calligraphy shares many traits with Huang Tingjian's. The artist once said: "The Jin-period calligraphy is lofty, the Song-period calligraphy sincere and the Tang-period calligraphy graceful. I learn from them all." By mastering different styles Bada Shanren developed his own unique, expressive and unforgettable calligraphy, similar to his paintings.