Horses

Famous Chinese artist’s equestrian works fetch $3 million

Famous Chinese artist's equestrian works fetch $3 million

three horses, by Xu Beihong, sold for HK$5.7 million. © Christie’s

Works by one of China’s best-known horse painters were recently auctioned off at Christie’s in Hong Kong in a sale of modern and contemporary ink paintings.

three horses, a hanging scroll in ink and color on paper created in 1941 by Xu Beihon (1895-1953), was the artist’s most expensive lot, selling for HK$5,796,000 (NZD$640,000; 417 US$000; £331,000). It and several other pieces were donated in the name of “a descendant of a distinguished Southeast Asian collector”, according to Christie’s.

Collector Chen Jiandun amassed an impressive collection of India ink paintings throughout his life, with a particular interest in Xu Beihong, a love shared by many of his fellow Southeast Asian collectors.

three horses depicts the horses in various positions, a paradigmatic composition on which his other versions of the same subjects are based – an indication that this was one of his favorite original compositions.

Xu Beihong’s work consists mainly of animal subjects. Of the many animals he rendered, the horse is perhaps his best-known subject.

Five other works by Xu Beihong, created between 1938 and 1941, in places such as Nanjing, Singapore, India and Malaysia, were also auctioned, Fine modern and contemporary Chinese ink paintings late last month. The five horse works grossed a total of HK$15,498,000 (NZ$3.03m; US$1.97m; £1.567m).

These paintings come from the period in which Xu reached his mature style and was most prolific. Drinking water for horses was dedicated to “Madame Kunyi”, a disciple of his friend and fellow artist Gao Qifeng. Racing horse, galloping horseand another Racing horsewhile all employing the same subject matter, nonetheless manifest Xu’s accomplished skills in depicting the animal through different perspectives.

Galloping Horse, by Xu Beihong, sold for HK$3.27 million.
Galloping Horse, by Xu Beihong, sold for HK$3.27 million. © Christie’s

Xu showed a predilection for painting horses early in his career, when he imitated the animals featured on tobacco tins. Initially, he adopted the watercolor methods and painting techniques of Giuseppe Castiglioni. He began his journey and studies in Europe in 1919 and returned to China in 1927. While abroad, he focused on the study of realism and drew extensively, using real-world objects and frequented local zoos.

If he does not directly follow the stylistic approaches of his teachers François Flameng and Fernand Cormon, he is nevertheless influenced by the dynamism conveyed in their works. After returning to China, her art turned to traditional Chinese, where ink, color and paper became her most frequently used media.

As he developed his personal style, he also began to depict his horses in a very individualized way. Using quick brush strokes, thick lines were used to model the horse’s body; the “flying white” technique to draw his mane and tail; precise and delicate lines to delimit her features and her knees. He rarely used a dry brush, mostly wielding a saturated brush and painting quickly. He avoided the background, firmly directing the viewer’s gaze to the horse itself. If Xu Beihong’s majestic lions symbolize the Chinese state, then his horses the individuals – embodying fuller and more urgent emotions and feelings.

by Xu Beihong galloping horse recovered HK$3,276,000 (NZ$640,000), Racing horse (1938) HK$2,520,000, Drinking water for horses HK$2,016,000, and Racing horse (1939) HK$1,890,000. cat on rock did not sell.

The most expensive lot of the sale was Hills in the autumn mistby Zhang Daqian, which grossed HK$13.65 million (NZ$2.6 million; $1.7 million).