T hese two works by highly sought-after Chinese artist Qi Baishi were bought by the consignor’s father at the artist’s house in the 1950s, consigned via the Sotheby’s online valuation tool and sold at auction for more than €210,000.
QI BAISHI, FLOWERS AND DRAGONFLY (ESTIMATE €40,000–60,000, SOLD FOR €100,000) AND PLUM BLOSSOMS (ESTIMATE €30,000–40,000, SOLD FOR €112,500), BOTH INK AND COLOUR ON PAPER. . FROM ARTS D’ASIE.
Qi Baishi was a highly regarded Chinese artist and is now one of the most sought-after names in twentieth century Chinese art. From a humble background, Baishi became a carpenter at fourteen, and it was largely through his own efforts that he became adept at the arts of poetry, calligraphy, painting, and seal-carving. Influenced by Ming and Qing art, from the age of eighteen he painted and studied with various artists but it was only in his forties that Qi achieved fame after studying under Wu Changshuo at the Shanghai school. He later settled down in Beijing and developed his genre to concentrate on the smaller things in life, concentrating on botany, insects, frogs and shrimps, meticulously observed but painted in a fresh and spontaneous manner. In his work there is no excess of decoration and a simplicity which gives his work a contemporary appeal. Qi Baishi himself theorized that “paintings must be something between likeness and unlikeness.”
These two paintings, which featured in the Arts D’Asie sale in Paris on 12 December, are typical of the developed mature style of his later years, Qi’s love of nature and botany are evident in the precision of his brushwork. The dancing dragonfly is incredibly real and well observed. The paintings are being sold by the son of an Italian scientist and doctor who travelled as part of an Italian delegation to China in 1955. Accompanied by Italian writers and artists, the doctor, together with an artist friend Ernesto Treccani, visited Qi Baishi at his house, and entranced by the elderly artist with his beard tied with ribbon in the traditional way, made various purchases directly from the artist.
Mark Stephen is Deputy Director in the London valuations department, responsible for online valuations and with 35 years’ experience in the auction world. He revealed: “The variety and breadth of antique, and often, not so-antique, objects and paintings sent to Sotheby’s via our on-line platform is an experience to see. We sift through watches, jewellery, wine, paintings from every period, silver, ceramics and objects so bizarre they cannot be categorised. The good, the bad, and the ugly of the antiques world pass through our hands on a daily basis.”