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Master Xu Beihong's rare sketches on auction
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2007-11-28 13:13
Precious, never-before-seen human-figure sketches by master Xu Beihong (1895-1953) go on auction today. The bidding of the 40 ink works will begin at six million yuan to eight million yuan, writes Wang Jie.

Portrait of Ms Jenny, a 1939 oil painting by Xu Beihong, one of the most famous modern Chinese artists, was sold for 22 million yuan (2.7 million U.S. dollars) to an unnamed buyer on Nov. 6 at the autumn auction of Poly International Auction Co. Ltd. (File Photo)

Forty ink sketches by master Xu Beihong (1895-1953) - human figures never before publicly displayed - will be auctioned today at the 2007 Chong Yuan Autumn Auction in the Garden Hotel.

The sketches were used in Xu's art class as teaching materials; some were rough sketches for masterpieces, such as "Mountain Ghost."

Bidding is expected to begin around six million yuan (811,400 U.S. dollars) to eight million yuan. Xu's 1939 painting "Put Down Your Whip" fetched 72 million HK dollars (9.2 million U.S. dollars) at Sotheby's auction in Hong Kong in April.

The sketches belonged to Xu's first, estranged wife, Jiang Biwei, who took them to Taiwan. The couple had a passionate love affair, eloped to Japan, studied in France and were later bitterly divorced.

In the settlement in France, Jiang was allowed to take 100 paintings from Xu's studio. These sketches were not among the 100 works, but they came into her possession.

Mainly created during the 1930s and 1940s, the value of these sketches not only lies in art itself, but also the entanglement of Xu with his wife Jiang.

"You cannot talk about Xu Beihong's life without talking about Jiang Biwei," says Ji Chongjian, owner of Chong Yuan Auction House. "Their two lives were entwined."

Jiang was born in 1898 in a distinguished family in Yixing, Zhejiang Province. When she was 19, she met 24-year-old Xu. They fell immediately in love and ran away to Japan because Jiang's parents strongly opposed the young artist.

They moved to France for studies, and their passion continued. But later Jiang realized that her husband gave more time and attention to his own creations, often leaving her alone. Soon Jiang had a love affair with a married man named Zhang Daofan who courted her passionately. Xu wanted a divorce.

But he paid a "thorny" price: 100 artworks that his ex-wife selected at his studio.

"These really belonged to Jiang. This is the first time they have been seen by the public," says Ji.

Xu remarried: His second wife Liao Jingwen was a librarian and they lived peacefully for his remaining years. Jiang died alone in Taiwan, finally abandoned by Zhang who never divorced his French wife. The sketches were in possession of Xu's son.

Besides Xu's precious sketches, buddhas, antiques, jade and old ink-wash paintings will also go under the gavel.

Source:Shanghai Daily 
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