Lot 104. Qi Baishi (1862-1957), Loquats in a Basket. Hanging scroll, ink and color on paper, signed Baishi laoren, with one artist's seal reading Qi Da; 35 3/4 x 17 7/8in (90.8 x 45.2cm). Estimate US$ 60,000 - 90,000 (€ 51,000 - 76,000). Sold for US$ 62,812 (€ 53,635). © Bonhams 2001-2021
Provenance: Far East Fine Arts, San Francisco, California, October 1995
Sotheby's New York, Fine Chinese Paintings, 30 May 1990, lot 203.
Published: Jung Ying Tsao, The Paintings of Xugu and Qi Baishi, San Francisco, 1993, catalog no. 18, pp. 309-311.
Note: In this large format zhongtang composition, Qi Baishi creates a vibrant, celebratory painting. With an abundance of bright yellow loquats--symbolizing wealth--the fruit overflows the large basket, exceeding its capacity. The painting showcases the artist's greatest strength, his ability to capture the essence of his subject with a minimum of brushstrokes and color.
Primarily just two colors, the vivid yellow and black ink create a strong contrast. Although in this composition, Qi Baishi's color choices are restrained, his brushwork is skillful and varied, revealing his calligraphic training. The fruit stems and basket's handle employ seal script technique, while the twine attaching the raised branch to the handle is quickly executed, evoking the spontaneity of running/cursive script. Deftly applied ink washes and dots define the leaves and provide them with dimension, and the combination of graded washes and dry brushwork on the basket's bowl endow the painting with texture.
The painting is signed simply Baishi Laoren (old man Baishi) with a single seal Qi Da. Both signature and seal are harmonious with the composition, the brushwork of the artist's name compliments the twine around the branch, and the seal echoes the structure of the basket's handle. There is neither a date nor an artist's dedication, but given its celebratory, auspicious mood, it was likely painted to meet the increasingly strong demand from an international audience during the later 1940's, when Qi Baishi held numerous successful exhibitions of his work in Nanjing and Shanghai, in addition to selling his work directly from his Beijing studio.
Qi Baishi created several similar scaled zhongtang compositions of loquats. See another painting, formerly in the collection of Dr. K.S. Lo, sold by Christies Hong Kong, 30 May 2017, lot 1506.
Bonhams. Chinese Ceramics, Works of Art and Paintings, New York, 20 Sep 2021