Exhibition of Modern Chinese Painter Shi Lu Highlights Christie’s Asian Art Week

NEW YORK – In conjunction with Asian Art Week (March 22-25), Christie’s will mount a rare presentation of one of 20th century China’s most distinctive artists, in the special exhibition titled “The Beauty of Art: An Exhibition of Paintings and Calligraphy by Shi Lu in the Private Collection of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth.”

“Monumental Peaks,” a hanging scroll, ink and color on paper.

“Girl on Rocks,” a hanging scroll, ink and color on paper.

“Pines,” a hanging scroll, ink and color on paper.

Featuring 40 paintings and calligraphy, which are presented for viewing only and are not for sale, “The Beauty of Art Monumental Peaks” will be shown March 15-31 in Christie’s Gallery 7 at 20 Rockefeller Plaza, Monday-Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The exhibition will be presented in a gallery guide and viewable worldwide on Christie’s web site.

Shi Lu (1919-1982) studied traditional Chinese art during his youth in Sichuan, then joined Mao Zedong and the Communist forces and mastered the socialist realist style imported from the Soviet Union. Subsequently, he evolved an utterly distinctive style of frenetic brushwork, which he applied to traditional subjects: landscapes, figures, flowers and the written word. Several intimate sketches in the exhibition also reveal Shi Lu’s skill as a portraitist and draughtsman. His tragic later years were marked by persecution during the Cultural Revolution and by mental illness.

The renowned New York fine art dealer Robert H. Ellsworth encountered Shi Lu’s art in the late 1970s during the course of his deep investigation into 19th- and 20th-century Chinese painting. His work in this field would result in 1986 in the donation of the Robert Hatfield Ellsworth Collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. All 471 modern Chinese paintings is the largest assemblage in the Western world to the museum. Ellsworth became the first person anywhere, East or West, to recognize the exceptional qualities of Shi Lu’s art.

He set out to acquire as many works as possible, most obtained directly from Shi Lu’s family, and succeeded in assembling the most comprehensive and distinguished private collection of Shi Lu’s work. Many of the paintings selected for exhibition in “The Beauty of Art” have not been shown or published before.

The exhibition will be held at the same time as Christie’s Asian Art Week, which will run March 22-25, offering more than 1,500 lots in total. The various auctions will include:

• Two sales of exceptional Indian and Southeast Asian Art on March 22, featuring works by celebrated modern masters Tyeb Mehta, Syed Haider Raza, Francis Newton Souza, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, Maqbool Fida Husain, Arpita Singh, Bhupen Khakhar and Manjit Bawa;
• A sale of Japanese and Korean Art, which will include more than 300 traditional and modern works of art on March 23;
• South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art auction, featuring works of leading 20th- and 21st-century Indian and Pakistani artists on March 23;
• On March 24 and 25, three sales showcasing a diverse range of outstanding Chinese works of art, including “Magnificent Qing Monochrome Porcelains and Earlier Works of Art from the Gordon Collection,” “Property from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections,” and Parts 1 and 2of “Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art.

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