A 12-panel set of ink-brush paintings by the Chinese traditional master Qi Baishi sold on Sunday, 17 December, at Poly Auction Beijing for a record RMB931.5m ($141m). The sale, to an undisclosed Chinese buyer, is the highest auction price for a Chinese artist.
Twelve Landscape Screens, painted in 1925 and measuring 1.8m by 47 cm, depicts mountain, village and fishing scenes. One of Qi’s largest works, it toured to Poly’s exhibition space in Vancouver in October as part of the show National Treasure.
Qi, born in 1864 to a Hunan Province peasant family, is (along with Zhang Daqian) one of the last great Chinese traditionalist painters. He became a carpenter at age 14 and was largely self-taught as an artist, calligrapher, poet and seal-carver.
Mentored by Wu Changshuo of the early Modernist Haipai or Shanghai style, Qi settled in Beijing and there developed a distinctively whimsical style of painting, mostly of nature and particularly animals and fruit.