Auction | China Guardian (HK) Auctions Co., Ltd.
2015 Autumn Auctions
20th Century and Contemporary Chinese Art

WU GUANZHONG (1919-2010)
Green Seascape

Oil on paper,mounted on board

24 x 34 cm.9 1/2 x 13 3/8 in.

Signed in Chinese on lower right,signed,dated and inscribed in Chinese on the reverse

Wu Guanzhong 1919 -2010

Wu’s approach to landscape oil painting,“sketch-painting”,blends together strengths of the Eastern and the Western methods. He would work out the composition of a work by instinct before sketching directly before the natural scene. The approach enabled the artist to maintain his passion for creativity as well as a refreshing sense of vitality in his works. For this reason,Wu’s sketches are his best works. Very often he found inspiration in an unexpected,passing scene in the middle of his sketching trip.

When Wu Guanzhong visited Mount Lao for the first time in the 1970s,he was enchanted by its picturesque,seaside village. It was by accident that he and his students,including Zou Denong,meandered into the small and quaint fishing village. They had a memorable time there. To commemorate this journey,his friend Wang Jinjia wrote four Chinese words on a piece of stone that literally mean“meander through Mount Lao”. Master Wu had held this episode dear and kept the stone on his tea table for many years. Zou Denong recalled how Wu could not stop hailing the spectacle of the rocks,pine trees,village,mountain and ocean at Mount Lao when they were sketching. They were so impressed by the landscape that when they reached the top of Mount Tai,they went on to set it against Mount Lao,praising the artlessness of the latter.

Green Seascape was created in 1974 when Wu accepted an invitation from Zhang Xia,who handled external publicity and patent applications at China National Cereals,Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation,to spend the summer in Qingdao(previously known as Tsingtao). The master kept the work dearly himself after its completion until he gave it to Zhang Xia as a keepsake when the two met again by chance in 1985.

Green Seascape is exactly one of the pieces inspired by a passing scene. In the memoir,Zhang Xia recounts:“On a certain sunny day,the blue sky clouded over abruptly and waves surged over the originally quiet sea surface. It reminded us of the quote“the gale rages before the storm breaks”. The heaven seemed to be in a playful mood. When we reached the top of Mount Lao,the clouds scattered suddenly and the sky became clear again. Standing at the top of Mount Lao,we embraced the beauty of the natural landscape with our eyes vehemently. The magnificent sight looked like a mirage. The master opened his paint box and wasted no time in working on an impromptu painting. The blue sky,the boundless sea,the surging waves,the strange-looking rocks,the golden beach,the faraway ship,the whole natural landscape and all that was there came alive under his paintbrush.”

Impromptu art always brings wonder. Green Seascape has reached a new level in both verisimilitude and imagery,highlighting the artist’s pursuit of formal beauty. With a zigzag structure,Wu draws the viewer’s attention gradually from the beach in the foreground,the reefs in the midground and the steamboat in the background to the skyline of the mountains along the sea horizon. The composition has elevated the imagery of what could have been a linear presentation. The zigzag structure is a typical layout of strokes in traditional Chinese calligraphy. By receding to the sides,the structure makes way for sense rather than form,imagery instead of totality of the objective,original features of objects. Wu has artfully instilled the ethos of Chinese art into Western oil painting and married the two harmoniously.

Amid the overlapping color patches of the reefs,a few lines have been added to express the outline of and spatial relationships between the reefs. Arrangement of the charcoal black“dot-to-line strokes”conveys a sense of subtle exuberance. The artist has brought rich textures and a charming luster into the sea water with a few streaks of light green upon the blueness of the water surface,a nuanced contrast between bright colors and shades or cold and warm colors,as well as his unique brush strokes,especially the few“flying whites”.The finesse and richness of colors in the dot-to-line strokes compares with that of Pointillism.

Wu created a number of paintings of the reefs and the ocean during his journey through Mount Lao. Among them,the piece entitled Ocean Waves resembles Green Seascape in terms of its composition and spatial arrangement so much that the two pieces look like sisters. However,the two are distinct in terms of sense. Compared to Ocean Waves,Green Seascape is much more peaceful. In the former,the viewer sees a striking scene of gusty wind and deafening waves hitting the reefs; while in the latter,the viewer can see the calm after the storm,tranquility,brightness and warm sunshine on a beach and the sea with no trace of the raging storm and waves in the previous moment. The artwork enables one to marvel at the awe-inspiring changes in the wild nature. Regardless of the kind of change,Wu was capable of fully capturing and bringing to life the essence of his subjects on his small canvas. There is a majestic world in every piece of Wu’s creation,and this is the reason why the landscapes under his paintbrush are infallibly memorable.

Price estimate:
HKD:2,500,000 - 3,000,000
USD:322,500 - 387,100

Auction Result:
HKD : 3,304,000



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