PROPERTY OF AN ASIAN PRIVATE COLLECTOR
Zhang Daqian's landscape paintings are not merely pictures that he conjured up from his imagination; instead his widely-travelled life provided the source for many of his greatest landscape paintings. Ranging from Wu Gorge in China, to Lake Wuting in his residence in Brazil, to the Alps in Switzerland, Zhang's works epitomize the breadth of his travels and allow his memories to be imprinted on his works. Of all the places he lived and journeyed, Zhang held special affection for the newly-established Taiwan. As a voluntary exile from China, Zhang remained passionate toward Chinese art and culture despite having spent much of his life in the West. He made frequent visits to Taiwan prior to moving there permanently in 1978, enticed by the proximity to his own culture and friends who shared the same language and values.
Highway Hengguan was a major civil engineering project and a milestone in infrastructural development of Taiwan in the 1950s. Opened to the public in the spring of 1960, the highway connects the East and West coast of Taiwan, making the Taroko Gorge and the surrounding National Park an instant tourist attraction. Zhang first visited the highway with his wife at the invitation of the construction company and was immediately attracted to the spectacular landscape there.
In remembering Zhang Daqian's visit to Highway Hengguan, his friend Liu Shizhen recalled: This is Mr. Zhang's first visit to Highway Hengguan. At that time we went there by invitation, and together in the group there was his good friend photographer Long Chin-san... For more than 20 years, whenever Mr. Daqian had free time he would visit the highway for several days. This is because he enjoyed the spectacular mountains and he perceived the highway as a grand and magical project, which greatly inspired his creativity and helped him to paint.
I asked Master Zhang in Sichuanese dialect where was the most spectacular landscape in the world. He answered without hesitation, "Of all the world, the landscape here (at the Highway) is the best". He said, "I have travelled to famous scenic spots all over the world, and have always thought the Swiss Alps most grandiose and stunning, however, the ravine in Taiwan far exceeds the beauty of Switzerland, which pales in comparison." (In Memory of Zhang Daqian, National Palace Museum, Taiwan, pp. 367-368.)
Landscape along Highway Hengguan was painted in the spring of 1965 when Zhang resided in Brazil. His memory of the highway fostered the imagery, so that "he does not necessarily need to be there in person, as long as he acquired the ambiance of the place" (see inscription). The composition, strongly resembling a classical literati landscape painting, expresses Zhang Daqian's longing for and connection to his homeland and his artistic heritage even though he was far away. However in this ancient outlook one sees two symbols of modernity and creativity - first the splashed ink that Zhang creatively applied on the painting, depicting the mountains and the ambience; second the fine details showing segments of the highway, subtly visible where Zhang's splashed ink does not cover. In Zhang Daqian's mind the landscape along Highway Hengguan remained tranquil and secluded despite man-made interventions - the highway that ironically made it possible for him to indulge in the nearby scenery- and transcribed this onto his paper.
Zhang Daqian painted several landscape works depicting Highway Hengguan, another example can be seen in his Journey to Highway Hengguan, sold at Christie's Hong Kong in November 2009 (Lot 610).
Landscape along Highway Hengguan