Top auction billing for Chinese artist

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 12th October, 2016

A painting by one of China’s leading water colourists of his day has top billing at Leonard Joel’s forthcoming Asian Art, Classic Furniture & Objects auction from 11am Sunday October 16 at 333 Malvern Road, South Yarra.

Featured on the auction catalogue front cover, the ink and colour on paper Morning Glory and Chicks is by self-taught artist Qi Baishi (1863-1957) and carries an estimate of $170,000-$200,000.

Never formally trained, Baishi taught himself how to paint by studying the forms, techniques and traditions of Chinese art history – from naïve folk art to the classical Chinese works of the Qing Dynasty.

Baishi’s revolutionary work succeeded at a time when realism challenged traditional Chinese painting conventions and brought fresh modernism to classic techniques.

He grew up in a rural agricultural environment and his seemingly innocent and playful works showing animals amongst foliage are often seen as allegories of human experience.

The auction, which features 10 single owner collections from Melbourne and Sydney, includes two carved pieces of furniture from famous Australian woodcarver and cabinet maker Robert Prenzel (1866-1941), that originally belonged to Mornington Peninsula orchardists Anne and Douglas Cairns and have been handed down through the family.

Prussian-born Prenzel arrived in Melbourne on November 24, 1888 and became the most important member of a group of professional and amateur carvers who worked in a distinctly Australian idiom for the first quarter of the 20th century.

The largest collection of his works is in the National Gallery of Victoria, which also holds papers, drawings, sketches, templates, trade catalogues and photograph albums of his creations.

Another interesting furniture piece is a music cabinet by equally well-known industrial chemist, woodcarver and poet John Kendrick Blogg (1851-1936), commissioned for former RACV president Alured Kelly.

Blogg took up woodcarving as a hobby following the death in 1893 of his first wife Annie.

His immersion in the craft was attributed to increasing deafness and his works were carved from solid wood pieces using only hand tools – without joints or superimposition of timbers.

Blogg’s many commissions included a carved panel for Victorian Governor Lord Carmichael (1859-1926) and a decorated box for King Albert of Belgium (1909-1934).

In 1996, his grandson Hugh Stevenson donated letters, cuttings albums, poetry, photographs and family memorabilia – providing an interesting overview of Blogg’s life and work – to the National Library.

The auction contains many other collectable items including a painting of a kingfisher with loquats by Chinese artist Ding Yangyong (1902-1978) and a Khmer sandstone figure of Lokeshvara from the Anghor Period of the 12th or early 13th centuries.

Other strong collectables include a polished grey stone figure of Vishnu from 9th century Nepal and a mid-19th century Chinoiserie black lacquered bureau plat in the manner of Jacques Dubois. 

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