From 1920s to 1930s, Wang Jiyuan was an established oil painter and watercolorist in Shanghai, famous for his rich creations and theoretical teachings. He participated in many activities in Shanghai painting circles, actively popularizing watercolor art and canvas art. He had taken up the post as professor and dean of studies in Western Painting at the Shanghai College of Fine Arts for about twelve years. In 1920, he joined the Tien Ma Society in Shanghai, an organization to promote Western style painting. In 1927, he founded Yi Yuan Painting Research Institute, and the efforts to explore and promote Wang's works have been widely praised in art circles. For example, he recommended Chen Chengbo to teach in Shanghai, and then helped Pan Yuliang organize a personal exhibition "China's first Female solo exhibition." From then on, the name Pan Yuliang became well-known and was engaged by Xu Beihong to be lecturer at Central University's art department. In 1940, he left China for the United States during the Sino-Japanese war, and established the School of Chinese Brushwork to promote Chinese watercolor painting and calligraphy. As he rarely attended Asia's regional art activities, relatively few Asian collectors were familiar with Wang Jiyuan.
Wang Jiyuan showed his skill in watercolor at an early stage, holding numerous exhibitions in the thirties. At that time, Wang Jiyuan's Painting Album and Water Color Painting Copies were published, too, playing an important role in popularizing watercolor painting at that time. He compiled a watercolor painting textbook (the Jiyuan's Water Color Album) for high school students' use during his early years, which strongly influenced the whole field of watercolor paintings. Besides watercolor paintings, his traditional painting skills were of a tremendously high standard, excelling in traditional Chinese Paintings, taking advantage of both Chinese and Western styles at that time. By the end of the 1920s he had already travelled to Europe and Japan to serve research purposes of Western and Japanese art as well as to develop his own artistic knowledge. His oil canvas works during this early stage still had the characteristics of relatively thinner colors of watercolors. His painting style, influenced by Cezanne, was evident in Wang's new found attention paid to skill and technical analysis, in order to achieve the target object's composition. As a result his paintings rapidly evolved to demonstrate greater craftsmanship; brushstrokes were dense and thick yet simultaneously smooth and lyrical.
Between 1940 and 1950 his study in the United States focused on his depiction of Western ladies and the painter's self-portraits, painting numerous works and holding exhibitions. Such three oil canvas portraits as Reclining Nude (Lot 650), Portrait of Lady (Lot 651), and Self-portrait (Lot 652), are all creations of this period. Among them, the painter's self-portrait in particular is the most precious and unique. At that time, Wang Jiyuan created self-portraits, but the majority of the paintings only depicted the painter's upper body, with a dull background. Unlike Self-portrait that succinctly captures the painter's mood and attitude towards creation, the piercing gleam in his eyes is equivalent to the studio furnishings. Painters themselves pose to be sensitive works of art; they will often come into their own painting gallery and examine themselves closely, as if a bystander is looking in. The painter's self-portraits are usually not for sale. Such a creation relates much more intimately to the artist himself often filled with personal feelings, philosophical theories, self-reflection etc. It is in the painter's self-portraits that we will realize the painter queries his own existence and life-goals. Portrait of Lady uses bright and smooth colors to show skin texture and feminine qualities of a ladies body, creating calmness and serenity and delicately depicting the scene. Reclining Nude uses symbolic soft color tones to describe the soft and plump figure and skin of the naked lady, which transmits to her particular beauty. The background creates an atmosphere of mystery and fascination in order to form a strong contrast with the snow white skin of the naked lady, highlighting the visual tension of the composition.
Compared with oil canvas works, Wang Jiyuan's ink and color paintings seem relatively livelier. The appearance and painting composition is lucid, elegant and vivid as he often takes the interesting, graceful, quiet and beautiful flowers and fruits from literati painting as creative themes. Carnation (Lot 653) is clear and simple but rich with sophisticated appeal. The pink flower central to the composition is supported with bright and magnificent colors. Delicate red and vivid green form a wonderful contrast, in which elegance and talent glitters and confronts the eye. The strokes are simple, beautiful and done with outstanding talent, which shows the senses of limitless poetic and pictorial splendor, and elegant beautiful ease simply found in Basket of Apples; Boats with Sunset; Flowers; Water Lilies & Seashore (Lot 654). These ink and color works on paper look wet and inviting, with multiple layers that show the famed attributes of Chinese watercolor painting. Graceful and bright, Wang's paintings are a perfect illustration of his great skill and natural execution.