Origin: Chinese Period: Early 20thC Provenance: Unknown Date: c.1920-40 Height: 86.5” Width: 44.5” Depth: 1” The Painting: 67.75” x 36”
The very large ink painting on parchment paper, stretching at over seven feet high in the frame, depicting bamboo stalks in a monochrome palette, the flank with calligraphy and red seal, now framed and glazed and mounted to a saffron coloured ground, the gilded frame showing the pink bole in places, the painting in the manner of Dong Qichang and surviving from the first half of twentieth century China. The painting is in good overall order having been framed and protected. There are some insect deposits to the outer border. The overall condition of the artwork is in as good as could be hoped for with no tears or signs of damage.
Works of bamboo painting, usually in ink like this one, are a recognised motif or subgenre of East Asian painting. In a work of bamboo painting in ink, a skilled artist and calligrapher will paint a bamboo stalk or group of stalks with leaves. The contrast between the foreground and background, and between the varying textures represented by the stalks and the leaves, gave scope to the painter to demonstrate his or her mastery with an inkpot and a brush. There are so-called “bamboo painters” who all their lives paint only bamboo.
Bamboo is commonly known as the "friend of China", and, together with Pine and Plum trees, is also known as one of the "three friends of winter". These three are often depicted both together and separately in traditional Chinese paintings. As Bamboo does not die in the winter but remains upright and evergreen even in very cold weather it has come to be known as a sign meaning long friendship and as a bringer of happiness. Bamboo gives maximum opportunity for artists to display their brushwork within a Chinese painting, to capture the bamboo stalk in a few quick strokes, and is the theme perhaps most closely related to calligraphy.
As far as the script goes on this picture, the first passage of writing tells us how this painter admires Wu Guanzhong’s work and the second passage tells us the time and place where he did this painting. Born in 1919 in the Jiangsu province of eastern China, Wu Guanzhong went on to become one of the most important Chinese painters of the 20th century. He’s renowned for his landscapes, which fused Western and Oriental artistic traditions, and were the result — in part — of three years’ study at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris between 1947 and 1950.
The red seal appears to be that mimicking 董其昌 Dong Qichang 1555–1636. Immensely influential as a painter and art theorist, Dong Qichang is also renowned for his calligraphy, and, together with Xing Tong (1551–1612), Mi Wanzhong (act. ca. 1595–after 1631), and Zhang Ruitu (1570–1614), he is considered one of the Four Masters of the late Ming.
As he did in his painting, Dong drew inspiration for his calligraphy from the ancient masters. Aimed at capturing the spirit rather than the physical likeness of his models, his writing style remained distinctively his own.
A huge decorative statement and so beautifully executed.