Author: LIU HAISU 刘海粟
Signed and dated: Painted in 1956
Final Price: RMB 4,500,000
signed in Chinese and pinyin, dated 1956
titled and signed in Chinese, dated 1956.8.7(on the reverse)
Previous Collection of Xu Zhi
1.This work is attached with the fan of Strange Pines in Huangshan presented by Liu Haisu to Xu Zhizhi and the signature album of Liu Haisu’s Visit to Huangshan • Close up of Lianhuafeng.
2.Xu Zhi (1910-1982), male, from Yaoyu village, Dangyu Town, Zunhua City, Hebei Province. He is a member of the Communist Party of China. He has successively served as vice minister of Propaganda Department of Shenyang City, vice mayor of Shenyang City, and member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Shenyang Municipal Committee. Because of his work, Xu Zhi made friends with many celebrities in the cultural circle, especially with Liu Haisu, Qi Gong, Shen Yinmo and other artists. He has a large collection of calligraphy and painting, antiques, ancient books and many other fields, so there are many masterpieces in his collection. This collection of works, Clouds around Lu Shan Mountain Hanpokou, the Strange Pine in Huangshan Mountain Fan, and the Liu Haisu’s visit to Huangshan Mountain close up of Lianhua Peak Paint Collection, was given to Liu Haisu directly before Xu Zhi died.
Under the revolutionary influence of the New Culture Movement in the early twentieth century, the term “fine art” was first introduced to China, and the art revolution was also in full swing. The confused controversies over art thoughts such as the East and the West, tradition and modernity, production and realism collided, conflicted, and changed in the twentieth century. At this turning point, ambitious artists who uphold the ideal of saving the country with art began to learn western progressive ideas, and also discover the essence of eastern tradition. They blazed a trail in Chinese modern art, and opened up a new era of Chinese national art. Liu Haisu is one of these eminent pioneers. As a pioneer of a new school in the history of modern Chinese art, Liu Haisu studied traditional Chinese painting as a child. He left home to study oil painting in Shanghai when he was a child. At the age of 17, he founded Shanghai Picture Academy (the predecessor of Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts) with friends including Wu Shiguang. It is the first art school in modern China. He called himself an “art traitor” and blazed a trail in modern art, becoming the pioneer of China’s new art movement and the founder of modern art education.
In Liu Haisu’s art career spanning the 20th century, he integrated the east and west in his artistic creation. The early works of Liu Haisu were mainly oil paintings, especially oil painting landscape. Since 1930s, Liu Haisu has produced more Chinese paintings, and gradually diverged from oil painting creation. As his artistic language becomes richer and painting techniques mature, Liu Haisu shifts the focus to Chinese painting traditions, which is substantially the mutual influence of Chinese painting and oil painting.
After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, lifelike painting became prevalent in the art world when it was proposed to “transform Chinese painting”. Starting in 1953, Liu Haisu, who had always focused on lifelike painting, began to travel the length and breadth of the country for its creations. He visited Beijing in 1953; Wuxi, and Hangzhou in 1954; climbed Mount Huang six times; visited Wuxi, Zhenjiang, Nanjing Wuhan, and Mount Lu in 1956. Importantly, this provided a precious source of creation in his lonely years after he was denounced as a “rightist”, suffered a stroke, and was even forced to hide away during the “Cultural Revolution”.
During this process, Liu Haisu developed commendable artistic love with Mount Lu. In 1936, he first climbed Mount Lu for lifelike painting. He wrote the words “Mount Lu” for the southern gate of Mount Lu in 1993 at the ripe old age of 97. He created the Clouds Clouds Around Lu Shan Mountain, together with the words “Mount Lu” and “Top of Mount Lu”. Liu Haisu reached his heyday of creation at the age of sixty in 1956. He climbed Mount Lu again this year, and created a great many excellent Chinese landscape paintings and landscape oil paintings. The works such as Fairy Cave on Mount Lu, Artificial Lake on Mount Lu, Yumen Stream on Mount Lu, Clouds of Mount Lu, Qingyu Gorge of Mount Lu, Five Peaks of Mount Lu, Imperial Stele Pavilion of Mount Lu, Lulin Bridge, and Painting the Clouds on Hanyang Peak from Hanpokou on Mount Lu, etc. were completed after this visit to Mount Lu. At that time, the Mount Lu Cultural Center held an exhibition of paintings with the theme of Mount Lu for Mr. Liu Haisu. Since then, “Hanpokou on Mount Lu”, “Qingyu Gorge on Mount Lu”, etc. become the recurring landscape in the mind of the artist. Liu Haisu created Chinese paintings and oil paintings on this theme many times. The oil painting Clouds Clouds Around Lu Shan Mountain created in August 1956 and collected by Mr. Xu Zhi is one of the classics. It is an oil painting landscape, but the painter skillfully used the artistic conception of landscape in the form of the overlooking angle in the composition of traditional Chinese paintings. After the mountain pass, there is still Poyang Lake, with a thick blanket of fog over the distant mountains. On the whole, the clouds drift in the wind, and the mist eddies in the mountains, as if in a fairyland.
In the construction of the landscape, Liu Haisu uses diverse brushwork approaches, with multiple objects. We can see the influence of Cézanne’s cubist landscape. Moreover, the other objects in the painting are created with powerful brushstrokes for an unrestrained feeling. The mountain is described based on the rock structure, with a strong sense of light and rhythm. He brings into play the calligraphy skills. In addition, the landscape sketch uses bright colors in a bold way. Although based on realism, it contains a tough of romanticism and adopts the juxtaposition of rich pure colors. While highlighting the expressionist style, the painter adds strong subjective emotion for great appeal.
In addition to the artistic value, Clouds Clouds Around Lu Shan Mountain is also a historical witness to the friendship. The collector Mr. Xu Zhi and Liu Haisu are contemporaries, having experienced the social turmoil and bloody wars. Mr. Xu joined the Communist Party of China when he was young. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, he served as the deputy director of the Publicity Department of the Shenyang Municipal Party Committee and the president of the Shenyang Daily. He committed himself to the cultural progress after the founding of New China. Later he was elected as Deputy Mayor of Shenyang and a member of the Standing Committee of the Shenyang Municipal Party Committee. Thanks to the positions, Xu Zhi had a large circle of friends in the cultural community, especially Liu Haisu, Qi Gong, and Shen Yinmo. On July 7, 1962 according to the lunar calendar, Liu Haisu gifted this fan painting to Mr. Xu Zhi, together with a poem: “The ancient pine has branches like a dragon, and the sound of the pine trees roar on Tiandu Peak. Who borrowed the pen of Wei Yan to create this painting with interest and charms”. This shows a profound friendship. When creating the Clouds Clouds Around Lu Shan Mountain, Liu Haisu made this oil painting on the linen bag of “Shanghai Zhongbai Company” due to insufficient painting materials, but this did not compromise friendship and value at all. Instead, it became a special brand of the times.
In terms of artistic creation, Liu Haisu said that “I know that paintings are created. It is sometimes intuitive, allowing full rein to the life.” In his works, momentary intuition and violent vitality are expressed through nature. As we can see from the oil painting Clouds Clouds Around Lu Shan Mountain, the flowing lines and gorgeous colors are the passion of the artist. There is also the close friendship behind it. It can still strike a chord in the minds of the viewers.