From ancient times, the lotus has been a divine symbol in Asian traditions. It is one of the Eight Auspicious Signs (Ashtamangala) pertaining to a number of Dharmic Traditions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. In Buddhist symbolism, the lotus represents purity of the body, speech, and mind as if floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire. Therefore, many deities of Asian religions are depicted as seated on a lotus flower. It is said that Gautama Buddha was born with the ability to walk, and lotus flowers bloomed everywhere he stepped.
In the classical written and oral literature of many Asian cultures, the lotus is present in figurative form, representing elegance, beauty, perfection, purity, and grace. Perhaps the most famous text is the poetic essay “On the Love of the Lotus” by Zhou Dunyi (1017-1073). As Zhou writes, “I love only the lotus, for rising from the mud yet remaining unstained; bathed by pure currents and yet not seductive.” The lotus is the “gentleman among flowers.” The term “gentleman” (junzi), of course, has since the time of Confucius been the ideal human being. So not surprisingly, the lotus flower is also a popular subject in Chinese paintings.
Zhang Daqian (張大千, 1899–1983), original name Zhang Yuan (張爰) and pseudonym Daqian, was one of the best-known and most prodigious Chinese artists of the twentieth century. He is also regarded by many art experts as one of the most gifted master forgers of the twentieth century. He is especially famous for his landscape, as well as lotus paintings.
As a child, Zhang Daqian was encouraged by his family to pursue painting. In 1917 his elder brother, Zhang Shanzi (an artist famous for his tiger paintings), accompanied him to Kyoto, Japan, to study textile dyeing. Two years later, Zhang Daqian went to Shanghai to receive traditional painting instruction from two famous calligraphers and painters of the time, Zeng Xi (曾熙) and Li Ruiqing (李瑞清). Through his association with these teachers, Zhang had the opportunity to study some works by ancient masters in detail. His early style attempted to emulate the Ming-Qing Individualists, including Tang Yin (唐寅), Chen Hongshou (陳洪綬), and Shitao (石濤). He meticulously studied and copied their works and began to make forgeries; his paintings after Shitao successfully deceived some of the best connoisseurs.
The lotus painted by Zhang Daqian is known as the “Daqian Lotus”, which is extremely popular in the auction market, and the price has repeatedly hit new highs. Among them, “Lotus Pond Wilderness” is particularly prominent. It was sold at HK$80.51 million (about $10 Million) at the 2013 Christie’s Spring Auction in Hong Kong, causing a sensation in the world.
A set of four hanging scrolls each more than five feet high and 2.5 feet wide – depict lotus flowers in various state of bloom. Completed in 1947. This masterpiece, however, despite its enormous size, is still well-organized. Within magnificence unfolds delicate tenderness; integrated artist early scholar-painter style and commitment to elegant, smooth brush strokes. Zhang vividly portrays the lotuses growing in nature, swaying in the summer breeze…. It truly is a fine example of the artist’s large scale lotus compositions.
More lotus paintings by Zhang Daqian:
However, a Contemporary Painting “Ink Lotus” by H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Was Sold for the US$16,500,500 at the Gianguan 2015 Spring Auction to Break the World Record.
The ink-wash painting Lotus by H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III has an uninhibited, natural, and spontaneous brushwork that is dense, bold, and robust, but also elegant and agile. It exhibits a charm that is like stone and bronze inscriptions. Flowing splash-ink on the scroll produces a vivid charm that evidences great ingenuity. There is an air of power and grandeur together without any trace of stiff, common, mundane artistry found in other lotus flower paintings. Overall, the whole painting manifests a harmonious and moving imagery, naturally emanating a lively vivaciousness and a carefree, spirited aura.