Li Keran's Chinese ink masterpiece set to break record

15 September 2017 - 2:48pm

​The spectacular landscape painting, Magnificent Mountains with Gushy Cascades, by Li Keran is one of the highlights of Sotheby’s Fine Chinese Paintings Autumn Sale 2017 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on Oct 2.

By one of the most important 20th century modern Chinese artists and spanning almost six feet long, this rare hanging scroll carries the highest estimate in the history of Sotheby’s Fine Chinese Paintings auction. However, the price estimate is only available upon request by bidders.

In addition, the sale also features a fresh-to-the-market masterpiece by Fu Baoshi, as well as exquisite works by Jiang Zhaohe, Xu Beihong and Zhang Daqian, many of which have been amassed from distinguished overseas collections of impeccable provenance. Nearly 300 works estimated at approximately HK$260 million (RM140 million*) will be offered this season.

Sotheby's Hong Kong fine chinese paintings department head C.K. Cheung says, “This season our department continues to live up to our meticulous sourcing approach by amassing troves of outstanding art pieces from private collections around the world. We are delighted to present salient works by such ink masters as Li Keran, Jiang Zhaohe, Huang Junbi and Deng Fen, among many others.

"Some of these works are entirely fresh to the market, while some have not been seen publicly for two decades. It is rare to have such a stellar line-up of works in one sale which makes this a perfect collecting opportunity for discerning collectors.”



Commemorating the 110th anniversary of Li Keran's birth

Li Keran (1907-1989)

Magnificent Mountains with Gushy Cascades


Ink and colour on paper, hanging scroll, 171 x 94 cm

Estimate upon request


Li Keran made his mark in Chinese art history with his distinctive artistic approach. Considered the magnum opus of Li’s landscape paintings, this six-foot hanging scroll was completed in 1978 and serves as the exemplar of its subject matter. Li Keran visited Kuaiji (now known as Shaoxing) in Zhejiang province in the 1950s, and found himself so inspired by the scenery that it became a recurring theme in his subsequent works. This painting portrays the magnificence of the Kuaiji landscape: the glorious, meandering mountains partially shrouded in a cloud of mist, expend an ineffable sense of vastness as the rushing streams fall from a great height to the lush foreground below.

In 1979, Li Keran personally picked the present work to be featured at a major exhibition in Tokyo hosted by Rongbaozhai and the Seibu Department Store of Japan in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. The painting excelled in quality, scale and price, and was met with critical acclaim.


From an Important European Private Collection

Fu Baoshi (1904-1965)

Trekking Over Mountains in Moonlight


Ink and colour on paper, hanging scroll

177.8cm x 57cm

Estimate upon request


Making its auction debut this October, Fu Baoshi’s Trekking Over Mountains in Moonlight was a work dedicated to the father of Doan (1914–1978), the French-Vietnamese collector. While tracing the path of his ancestry in China, Doan commissioned Fu to produce a piece which weaved together his Chinese last name with a historical scene.

Fu Baoshi created two works on this subject matter, with the current piece being the first of the two. Drawing inspiration and reference from the Book of the Later Han, one of the official works documenting the history of the Han Dynasty, the painting vividly portrays warriors marching through the mountains with only moonlight to guide them. Employing a traditional approach for the classical landscape composition, this is a finely detailed, deeply evocative painting which represents a masterful depiction of a Han Dynasty war scene.



Works of Jiang Zhaohe from an American Private Collection

Jiang Zhaohe (1904-1986)

Flower Girl


Ink on paper, framed

92.7cm x 53.5cm

Est. HK$1,500,000 - 2,000,000 (RM806,724 - 1,075,632)


Jiang Zhaohe is renowned among the 20th century modern Chinese artists for his humanitarian spirit. Though many of his works created at the height of his career in the 1930s and 40s were lost during the wars, thankfully some of the pieces were kept in the hands of overseas collectors. This is true of this piece which was acquired directly from the artist by a British collector during his time in Beijing in 1948.

With a country ravaged by war, Jiang Zhaohe was drawn to portray the lives of those affected by conflict, choosing civilians as his primary subject matter. Flower Girl depicts a realistic scene of a young woman selling flowers. Looking into the distance, she conveys a sense of hope and optimism towards the future, in spite of the hardship experienced by many in an era of war and social upheaval.


Works of Xu Beihong Previously from the Collection of Ho Kwong Yew

Xu Beihong (1895-1953)

Soaring Eagle


Ink and colour on paper, hanging scroll

154.7 x 82 cm

Est. HK$5,000,000-7,000,000 (RM2,689,080 - 3,764,712)


Soaring Eagle came from the former collection of Singaporean collector Ho Kwong Yew. In the 1930s, Xu Beihong travelled throughout Southeast Asia raising funds through the sale of his paintings to support China’s war efforts against Japanese aggression. The artist staged his largest solo show in March

1939 at the Victoria Memorial of Singapore, at which Ho Kwong Yew was one of the patrons. The two went on to develop a friendship over mutual interests and shared circles in the art world.

Executed in October 1939, this painting depicts a soaring eagle spreading its wings and readying its claws before swooping down to take its prey. The work expresses a strong sense of patriotism, inspiring passion and perseverance amongst those who were fighting the good cause. 


Zhang Daqian Painting from a North American Private Collection


​Zhang Daqian (1899-1983)

Vermilion Peony


Ink and colour on paper, framed

59.8 x 38.8 cm

Est. HK$6,500,000-8,000,000

Zhang Daqian (1899-1983)

Autumn Mountains in Verdant Mist


Splashed colour on paper mounted on cardboard, framed

61 x 94 cm

Est. HK$8,000,000-12,000,000