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

Wang Chiyuan (1893-1975)
Delicate Fragrance(Painted in 1941)

Oil on canvas

46 × 38 cm. 18 1/8 × 15 in.

Signed in English and dated on bottom left; signed in Chinese on the reverse
16 May 2004, Hua Chen Beijing Auction, Lot 18
Acquired directly by present important private Asian collector from the above

Delicate Fragrance from Afar:
Wang Chiyuan’s Alluring Fusion of East and West

Wang Chiyuan is one of the pioneers in the history of modern Chinese art. He was born in Jiangsu in 1893 and graduated from Jiangsu Second Normal School at the age of 19. The following year, he enrolled at the Private Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts for further studies. Upon graduation, he stayed on as a faculty member for twelve years. In 1919, Wang Chiyuan gained fame for his proficiency in ink washing, watercolour, and oil painting. In 1920, he co-founded the "Tianma Society." From the late 1920s to the early 1930s, he made multiple visits to Japan and several European countries for sketching and solo exhibitions and adeptly merged the essence of traditional Chinese ink painting with Western life sketching. In 1941, due to the wartime situation, he settled in New York, and two years later, he participated in the Chinese Modern Painting Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, gaining recognition in the American art scene. After 1947, he established the School of Chinese Brushwork in the United States, through which he promoted Chinese art for twenty years. His works are housed in prestigious collections.

Capturing Essence: a Delicate Fragrance and Subtle Radiance

"We perceive the colours of the universe not as inherent qualities of objects, but as a play of light, a mesmerizing transformation."
——Wang Chiyuan

In the retrospective view of the artist’s works in the auction market, the majority has been comprised of works on paper and watercolours. The featured oil painting, Delicate Fragrance, was completed in the year the artist arrived in America. At that time, his painting technique had entered a mature stage, making it a rare example of the artist’s lifelong portrayal of floral motifs in oil. The work harmoniously blends the slight distance of traditional Eastern literati painting with the beauty of Western oil painting brushwork.

The composition of the piece is simple and refined, using crisp lines and varying shades of emerald green to depict flower stems. They are artfully arranged within a translucent light blue glass vase. The flowers within the vase, refracted and magnified by water, are vividly presented by the artist through overlapping layers of white and green. Three types of flowers are arranged in the vase, showcasing delicate pink, serene blue-and-white, and vibrant orange colours. The artwork features a plain wall as the background, constructed with mutually perpendicular lines, with the background divided into two parts by colourful misty blue and rich brown purple, echoing the two colours on the tabletop. This contrast of light and shadow illustrates the sense of volume between objects and space, aligning with Cézanne’s advocacy for "expressing the volume of objects through the free combination of colour blocks." Wang not only captures the form of flowers and objects through the unique texture of oil paint but also interprets the distinct Eastern charm and calm character of flowers with pure colours and elegant lines. In the fleeting moments of flowing light, serenity extends infinitely.

Price estimate:
HKD: 250,000 - 350,000
USD: 31,900 - 44,700

Auction Result:
HKD: 300,000



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