Gibbon d'après Li Sheng

Zhang, Daqian 張大千, né en 1899, décédé en 1983

Entre 1945
Papier, Encre, Couleurs - Pigments
H. 162 x l. 79.5 cm
弘丘子爰; 張爰之印; 大千
Don manuel : Guo, Youshou 郭有守, Docteur
M.C. 8711

Inscription and signature: 瑟瑟煙空按暗夏明,紫崖果上月痕生。深宵忽聽霜林響,知是蒼猿拗樹聲。乙西年六月避暑昭覺寺临元人李升本。弘丘子爰

Painter’s seals: 1. 張爰之印 (白文) 2. 达千 (朱文)

Translation: Gently the mists disperse and darkness gives way to light,
A moon ray breaks over the purple cliffs, to the East.
In the depth of night, suddenly, a sound in the icy forest,
I know it is the noise of the trees bowing under the grey gibbon.
In the sixth month of the Yiyou year [1945], I spent the summer at the Zhaojue temple [in Chengdu] where I made this copy after Li Sheng of the Yuan, Hongqiu.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            “Of all the animals in the world, the gibbon is the smartest animal, and the one most endowed with feeling but also the one whose feelings are most easily hurt.” These words written by Zhang Daqian reveal his admiration for the independent gibbon. The painter appears to see the animal as a free-spirited soul with whom he can identify. Shortly before Zhang Daqian’s birth, his mother dreamed that a monk gave her a gibbon as a gift and saw this gesture as a sign. He later acquired the courtesy name Zhang Yuan, or Zhang the Gibbon, in memory of this dream. His paintings reflect his interest in these apes. In 1934, he painted two versions of a sleeping gibbon, which he signed under the name of Liang Kai 梁楷 (13th century). These fakes show his precise knowledge of ancient paintings of gibbons, works that are in Japan, particularly those of Muqi 牧谿 (13th century). It has been established that Zhang Daqian studied other ancient depictions of gibbons between 1934 and 1945, when he produced the Cernuschi Museum painting, which explains why he refers to Li Sheng 李升 (16th century) as the model for this painting.
While Zhang Daqian championed the heritage of the old masters, he was also influenced by contemporary paintings, including those of his brother Zhang Shanzi, who also painted gibbons. The latter readily kept the animals he depicted in his paintings, even wild ones; there were tigers at his Wangshi Yuan residence where he lived with his brother Zhang Daqian in the late 1930s. Later, Zhang Daqian also kept gibbons, enabling him to perfect his pictorial knowledge of the animal through direct observation and familiarity with it. The gibbon’s agile body is rendered with great accuracy, differing from the stylised rendering of the paintings in the style of Muqi. This development is the result of Zhang Daqian’s effort to appropriate the gongbi painting from the early 1940s. The rendering of the large green leaves demonstrate his mastery of the style. This meticulous treatment contrasts with the complex intertwining of branches and creepers on which the gibbon perches. The cursive line of the branches echoes the stylised rendering of the cliff and the waterfall.

Reference(s) : Gilles Béguin (dir.), Arts de l’Asie au Musée Cernuschi, Paris : Paris Musées ; Paris : Findakly, 2000
Marie-Thérèse Bobot, Musée Cernuschi: collection des peintures et calligraphies chinoises contemporaines, collection du musée Cernuschi, Alençon : Imprimerie alençonnaise, 1985
René-Yvon Lefebvre d’Argencé, Chiang Dai-Chien, a Retrospective, San Francisco : Center of Asian Art and Culture, the Avery Brundage Collection, 1972