Pu Ru's Lush Mountains and Tranquil River is a painting that was privately kept for many years by Tsi Ku Chai, Hong Kong. A rare artwork, 47 feet long and filled with beautiful scenery, it is a masterpiece in which Pu Ru manifested his deep passion and love for China while living in seclusion in Beijing after a time of war and suffering. The scroll was superbly painted in 1937, when the artist fled Beiping for refusing to take up official positions as a ceremonial figure. After years of pursuit, Tsi Ku Chai finally agreed to sell the scroll to Mr. Lui in October 1989. Lush Mountains and Tranquil River has since then remained in Mr. Lui's collection for 22 years. Mr. Lui was very fond of Pu Ru's elegant and scholarly style, his superb accomplishments not only as a painter but as a poet and calligrapher. More importantly, Lui admired Pu Ru's choice to live as a Chinese scholar rather than living as an imperial court member with fame and fortune. It is often said that you can see the artist through his paintings - in the inscription of this painting, Pu Ru wrote of the sparrows that once lived in the palace and now live amongst the residences of the commoners, expressing his longing for freedom and simplicity of life.
This collection of paintings comes from Mr. Lui Shu Ying (1919 -2000). Lui started a finance company in Hong Kong at the young age of 16 and moved to Shanghai in the early 1940s to expand his business, returning to Hong Kong in 1949 when Shanghai was liberated. While he remained active in investment activities, his daily life was completely immersed in the gardening of penjing (potted plants of the Lingnan school), in the study, appreciation and collections of Chinese paintings, jade and antiques. His demeanor of elegance and style as a Chinese scholar was expressed through his vast collection of paintings and more than 100 pots of penjing . Lui and his lifelong friend, Wu Yee-Sun, a prominent Hong Kong banker, were also regarded as accomplished Lingnan School penjing artists. At the request and sponsorship of Mr. Richard E. Lyng, Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, they donated 31 pots of precious and very artistic bonsai trees to the United States. Mr. and Mrs. Lui visited Zhang Daqian's home in Taiwan in 1981 to study penjing and their stone and jade collections. Zhang was particularly fond of penjing and regarded them as three dimensional paintings.
As a seasoned collector, Lui was very particular when sourcing for good pieces of art. In the 1960s and 1970s, most of his collection of Chinese paintings, jades, porcelain and antiques were purchased from two major antique arts dealers in Hong Kong. A good number of his pieces were bought from Christie's Hong Kong when its office opened in 1986, while some were bought directly from artists such as Zhao Shao'ang, Huang Junbi, Yu Youren, Li Yanshan and Xie Zhiliu. On the occasion of Mr. Lui's 70th birthday, Xie Zhiliu presented to him words of well wishes on a pair of large peach colour posters that became the focal point at the dinner party (see illustrated).
Mr. Lui's collection of paintings and calligraphy was mainly collected during the first half of the 20th century when most of the artists were still in China. It was a time when China was rife with war and suffering. Mr. Lui, who lived and worked in Shanghai in the 1940s, was able to relate to the emotions of the painters through the scripts and poems on some of his paintings. For example, Zhang Shanzi, Yu Youren, Huang Binhong, Kang Youwei had joined Dr. Sun Yatsun in the revolution against the Qing Dynasty. Zhang Shanzi was given official position after the revolution and he resigned from them in 1926 due to his frustration with the corruption within the government. He went to Shanghai with his younger brother Zhang Daqian. The grand and very imposing Prowling Tiger (Lot 2134) was painted by Zhang Shanzi in 1928 to express his feelings, that he no longer cared for fame and fortune. Many paintings created in these tumultuous years in China are imbued with emotions which read like pages of poetic history. For the collector, these paintings were not only aesthetically pleasing but also held great historical value that acted as unique comparisons to paintings created by the same artists in their later years in an age of peace and prosperity.
The Huai Qin Ge collection will also offer paintings by Zhang Dafeng and other Qing artists in our Fine Chinese Classical Paintings and Calligraphy sale on 28 November 2011, lots 1832-1836.