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2024 Spring Auctions > Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art
Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art

Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010)
The Wangshi Garden of Suzhou(Painted in 1983)

Ink on paper

28.8 × 40 cm. 11 3/8 × 15 3/4 in.

Signed and dated in Chinese with an artist’s seal on bottom right

1988, Collection of Wu Guanzhong’s Sketches, Sichuan Fine Arts Publishing House, Chengdu, p.37
2007, The Complete Works of Wu Guanzhong, vol. I, Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, Changsha, p.210
9 Jul 2020, Sotheby’s Hong Kong Fine Chinese Paintings Auction, Lot 2754
Acquired directly by present important private Asian collector from the above

The Vibrant Hues of Spring Cannot be Contained, as Bustling Visitors Herald the Return of Swallows
Wu Guanzhong’s Masterpiece of a Suzhou Garden

"I have painted the Tibetan Plateau and the Yulong Snow Mountain... but what I love to paint the most, and what I yearn to paint every year, is still my hometown in Jiangnan."
——Wu Guanzhong

Throughout his life, Wu Guanzhong considered "sketching from life" an important way for artistic exploration. With a discerning eye, a passionate heart, and skilled hands, he effortlessly captured life’s nuances with his pen. His sketches not only documented cherished travel experiences but also refined his acute ability to capture details and nurtured aesthetic sensibilities through intimate encounters with nature. It is precisely this commitment to capturing life’s essence that propelled Wu Guanzhong to the pinnacle of his artistic career, earning him the status of a master in his generation.

By 1979, with a more relaxed creative environment and improved economic conditions, Wu Guanzhong’s art had reached a stage of maturity. As art critic Shui Tianzhong observed, his sketches on paper had evolved into independent artworks with a "completely mature style". In 1983, during the Wu Guanzhong Art Exhibition at the Jiangsu Art Museum, he returned to his roots, immersing himself in the splendour of Jiangsu’s gardens. It was during this time that he completed The Wangshi Garden of Suzhou, capturing the exquisite beauty of nature with remarkable vividness.

A Testament to Divine Craftsmanship and Picturesque Landscapes

Suzhou’s Wangshi Garden stands out as the most delicate and renowned among the city’s four famous gardens. Notably, the Chinese-style "Mingxuan" in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York draws inspiration from Wangshi Garden, underscoring its global significance. Wu Guanzhong’s The Wangshi Garden of Suzhou depicts the scene from the Yue Dao Feng Lai Pavilion, where one can marvel at the Caixia Pond on the east bank - a sight cherished by the artist. From the pavilion’s eaves soaring like birds to the abstract brushstrokes resembling wild grass and the meticulously arranged square yellow stones in the centre, every detail is imbued with a sense of awe. The towering Guanyindou gable in the background adds a unique touch, reminiscent of distant mountains standing tall in the sky, a sight found only in the Jiangnan gardens.

As early as 1973, Wu Guanzhong had depicted the scene of Suzhou’s Wangshi Garden in his pioneering oil painting series Suzhou Gardens, showcasing his enduring affection for the place. Throughout his lifetime, he produced only two pen sketches of Wangshi Garden, with this particular piece being the sole inclusion in The Complete Works of Wu Guanzhong, highlighting its rarity and significance.

The Harmonious Grandeur of Spring’s Return to Earth

In this masterpiece, Wu Guanzhong not only captures the meticulous layout of Suzhou’s gardens but also conveys the intoxicating beauty of spring’s return to earth. From the graceful sway of willows and ancient pine trees to the tender shoots peeking out behind the gable, every element converges towards the centre, evoking a sense of harmony and renewal. With minimalistic ink dots, he brings to life the vibrant greenery, while bold ink lines depict lively scenes of people enjoying the spring and schools of fish swimming in the pond, mirroring the joyous harmony of nature. This artwork reflects Wu Guanzhong’s profound connection to his hometown and his optimism for the future, fuelled by improvements in his life and creative conditions.

Infused with romantic sensibility and reverence for nature, Wu Guanzhong’s masterpiece celebrates the innate harmony between humanity and the natural world within Wangshi Garden. It embodies the profound cultural heritage of classical gardens and the timeless wisdom of "the unity of heaven and humanity", inviting viewers to immerse themselves in its beauty and contemplation.

Price estimate:
HKD: 500,000 - 600,000
USD: 63,900 - 76,600

Auction Result:
HKD: 600,000



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