The artist in profile takes on the role of an old scholar in a white robe who studies a hand scroll without worrying about his surroundings. According to his practice throughout his career, this self portrait shows his age without complacency. The loyal dog, upright at his side, waits for the master to pay attention to him.
The preparatory drawing for this composition did not feature a saint bernard but a Tibetan mastiff. In the same size as the New Year's painting, Zhang made at an undetermined date a more achieved work, on gold paper. The drawing is the same, with the loyal mastiff. The dog's fluffy black fur is the highlight of this image, with a great realism. In contrast, the background is painted with the Tang-inspired splash technique.
Painted for his personal use, this self portrait with the mastiff was given to his wife. It is a link between the present, the man in his seventies, and the past, an intelligent and loyal sheepdog named Black Tiger who had not survived the hot and humid climate of southern China 27 years earlier. Zhang, who liked big dogs, had brought back the saint bernard from Switzerland.
The self portrait with a mastiff on gold paper is estimated HK $ 48M for sale by Sotheby's in Hong Kong on April 18, lot 8003.