Old Baishi in 99 Years Old


Incense ash, charcoal and resin on canvas

250 x 200 cm (98 7/16 x 78 3/4 in.)

On a large scale, in black and white, produced using a mixture of incense ash, charcoal and resin, Qi Baishi casts a wise and melancholic glance into the distance.

With a large-scale black and white portrait, Zhang Huan pays tribute to the self-taught Chinese artist. This invocation of his glorious predecessor is not surprising, considering the similarities between the two. Neither of them came from the academic elite that shaped Chinese artists. Qi Baishi was the son of a peasant and had no formal training; Zhang Huan was an art teacher in Henan before joining the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. Unlike many artists of his time, who were inspired by European or Japanese painting, Qi Baishi drew his inspiration from the Chinese tradition. This is echoed in Zhang Huan's revival of tradition by using incense ash recovered from temples for this portrait, linked to collective memory and the history of the Chinese nation.

The work was first shown by the Pinault Collection at the "Le Monde vous appartient" (“The World Belongs to You”) exhibition (2011-2012) at the Palazzo Grassi.