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Classic ink painting fetches $35m in auction

Lin Qi
Updated: Jun 6,2016 8:44 AM     China Daily

The God of Cloud and Great Lord of Fate by Fu Baoshi. [Photo/China Daily]

A colored ink painting by Chinese artist Fu Baoshi (1904-65) sold for 230 million yuan ($35 million) at a Beijing auction over the weekend.

The God of Cloud and Great Lord of Fate, dated 1954, was estimated to be worth 180 million yuan before the sale at Beijing Poly International Auction on June 4.

Zhao Xu, executive director of the auction house, said the winning bid was made by a Chinese mainland collector over the phone. He did not release a name.

The sum paid for the 3-meter-long painting, which has been in the Fu family for generations, was equal to the record for the artist’s work. In 2011, an album of eight ink and color paintings inspired by late Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s poems in the mid-1960s sold for the same price.

The God of Cloud and Great Lord of Fate demonstrates Fu’s investment in capturing classical subject matter, such as court ladies, and in revolutionizing ink art.

In the painting, he visualizes a section of the Chu Ci poetry collection that is believed to have been composed by legendary poet Qu Yuan, who lived during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC).

Fu portrays two fairies mentioned in verse: the Great Lord of Fate, who decides a person’s life span; and the God of Cloud, who controls the wind, rain, thunder and lightning. The latter is thought by many scholars to be a man, although author and historian Guo Moruo argued that it should be a woman.

The artist went with Guo’s opinion and gave the fairy a feminine appearance, not only because they were friends for more than three decades, but also because Guo’s research greatly influenced his work.

Also, by paring the two gods as lovers, Fu presents the sublime imagination and romanticism that also features in many of his other paintings of classical figures. The painter produced several works themed on the two fairies, although the whereabouts of only three are known.

Zhao said the sale will give a boost to the market for Chinese paintings and calligraphy.

The market has dipped in recent years due to a slowdown in the Chinese economy. However, at the same auction on June 4, a Buddhist-themed ink painting by Zhang Daqian fetched 63.8 million yuan.

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