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2023 Autumn Auctions > Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art
Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art

Chu Teh-Chun (1920-2014)
Sans Titre(Painted in 1970)

Oil on paper mounted on canvas

65 × 50 cm. 25 5/8 × 19 5/8 in.

2017, Chu Teh-Chun, Waddington Custot Gallery, London, Illustration 9
19 Sep – 11 Nov 2017, Chu Teh-Chun: Nature Lives with Me, Waddington Custot Gallery, London

Waddington Custot Gallery, London
Important Private Collection, Asia

This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Fondation Chu Teh-Chun and signed by Mrs. Ching-Chao Chu, spouse of the artist and co-editor of the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Chu Teh-Chun

Note: A label of London Waddington Custot Gallery is affixed on the reversebr

Natural and Unrestrained, Replete with Spiritual Meaning
A Stroll around the AutumnFragrance and MapleRed of Chu Teh-Chun's Sans Titre

Northern Song painter and calligrapher Fan Kuan (c. 960 – c. 1030), known for being “adept at conveying the spirit of landscapes” was an artist Chu Teh-Chun particularly admired and respected. Indeed, when he was living in France in the 1960s, Chu made a special trip to the National Palace Museum in Taipei to see Fan's classic painting Travelers among Mountains and Streams at which he concluded: “Fan Kuan learned from his heart and feelings rather than earlier painters, revealing the artist's inner imagination, self-cultivation and character in his works, in ways that happened to bring together the ideas of Chinese painting and abstract painting.” This also became an important source of Eastern and Western abstract thinking for Chu. Indeed, despite the great differences between the imposing and rough style of Fan and the surging elegance showcased in the abstract paintings of Chu Teh-Chun, viewers of works by these two great painters invariably find themselves moved by the grand world and endless meditation engendered therein.

The work Sans Titre was completed in 1970 and is an example of Chu Teh-Chun being inspired by Fan Kuan and Rembrandt, employing lyrical brushwork and virtual/real light and shade to highlight the wonderfully expressive way in which he borrows from the strengths of traditional Chinese landscape painting and Western classicism.

Competing Mountain Beauty, Enamored of Poetic Evening Maple Trees

This work echoes the vertical composition of traditional painting and calligraphy hanging scrolls, with the scene shrouded in a seemingly endless brown hue, as if slowly unrolling a landscape painting from the distant past. A series of large sweeping strokes move rapidly across the piece from top to bottom, utilizing the rhythm of calligraphic brushwork, leaving behind brushstroke marks reminiscent of “flying white” (feibai) calligraphy that spring forth from the rhythmic abstraction. With this as the central focus, the rise and fall of side tip or slanted tip brushstrokes create layer upon layer of peaks, which “viewed horizontally resemble a mountain range, but vertically appear as precipitous mountain tops.”

At the same time, the work is also replete with Rembrandt-like use of light and shade, ensuring the spatial focus and progression is fixed on a light source at the centre of the painting. As the layers of colour incrementally change, the brush strokes also spread outwards, changing from subtle and fine to unruly and wild. In areas where the colours converge, Chu Teh-Chun deliberately heightens shade and stroke strength, employing distinctive straightforward lines infused with angular turns, as if a powerful reflection refracted from the light. Moreover, by tightly combining this with the brown colour the artist ingeniously deepens the connection between the ebbing and flowing of the light and shade. Attended by the central light, the interplay and contrast of the brick-red maple forest and yellow lamp light lingers around the pitch black and yellowish-brown above the ground, undulating with the charm of fallen leaves returning to the soil. For viewers it is like seeing a scene of evening clouds disappearing, the sun setting at an angle, maple trees on a riverbank, houses on either side of the river, house lights at the foot of a secluded mountain, all reflected in a river.

Within the poetic abstractions of Chu Teh-Chun, all colours and ink, whether tightly packed together or dispersed, thick or light, bright or dark, brim with the brilliance of life and bristle with the magnificence of nature, imbuing the work with brightness and poetry.

Price estimate:
HKD 1,000,000 – 2,000,000
USD 128,200 – 256,400

Auction Result:
HKD: 1,200,000



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