• Chinese 20th Century Art (Day  auction at Christies

    Sale 2725

    Chinese 20th Century Art (Day Sale)

    30 November 2009, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1379


    Price Realised  


    (WANG CHI-YUAN, 1893-1975)
    Fruit Basket; & San Francisco
    Fruit Basket: dated '8/73' (on the reverse)
    San Francisco: signed 'C.Y.' in Pinyin (lower right); inscribed and dated 'San Francisco ca.; 1941-5' in English (on the reverse)
    two watercolour on paper
    22.5 x 29.5 cm. (8 7/8 x 11 5/8 in.); 10.2 x 15.4 cm. (4 x 6 in.)
    Painted in 1973 & 1941-1945 (2)

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    From the 1920s to 1930s, Wang Jiyuan was an established oil painter and watercolourist in Shanghai. He participated in many activities in the Shanghai painting circle, actively popularizing the watercolour 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. Wang's efforts in exploring and promoting art had been widely praised in art circle. For example, he recommended Chen Cheng-Po to teach in Shanghai, and then helped Pan Yuliang organize '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 U.S.A. during the Sino-Japanese war, and established the School of Chinese Brushwork to promote Chinese watercolour painting and calligraphy. This Day sale presents a series of rare paintings in Chinese brush ink and watercolour by Wang which displays Wang's considerable facility with the medium.

    Wang's colour ink paintings are simple and vivacious, and the compositions are delicate and lively. Although his landscape paintings are not large in scale, he has managed to use the composition to accentuate the monumentality of mountain ranges. For example, in Mountain Seclusion, Soft White Clouds Hanging Around High Mountains and Waterside Seclusion (Lot 1380), he creates tiny scenes with figures and architectures to imply the spectacular view. The rolling mountains that seemingly extends beyond the picture frame also makes viewers believe the dynamism of their imposing manner. The sensation of "overlooking the autumn clouds, my spirit flies, facing the spring winds, my mind roams" comes out naturally. In his book Oriental Brushwork, Wang specifically mentions Soft White Clouds Hanging Around High Mountains. The cliffs and the cascade in between are created to guide viewers to imagine the more distant scenery. This is the major difference between the Chinese landscape paintings and that of the West: artists of Chinese landscape paintings would not rigidly adhere to realistic space but emphasize on the reconstruction of the entirety of the landscapes and the delivery of the messages implied.

    On the other hand, Riverside Village, Waterfall, Cherry Trees and Summer Magnolia feature a closer view. In Cherry Trees and Summer Magnolia (Lot 1381), meticulous depiction, colouring and wash techniques are applied; the colouring is elegant, and the branches are modeled in mogu style (colouring without contour lines) with areas applied in feibai strokes (leaving spots not covered with ink) which enhance the vigor. Wang has departed from the traditional composition of birds and flowers paintings, reminding viewers of the "decentralization" of the Western Abstraction. The Riverside Village and Waterfall, however, is reminiscent of the "corner-landscape" of the Southern Song, that no longer emphasizes the completeness of landscape. The featured partial views of landscapes are the inner world that Wang desires to express: The key is not to express the details but to convey the vision and to reveal the artist's temperament and spirit.

    Besides landscape paintings, the refined flowers and still life with fruits endowed with literati interest and taste are also Wang's frequently painted subject matters. White Flowers, Blossoms in Vase, Floral Chorus, Water Lily Blooming and Pond Splendor (Lot 1382) have respectively shown the different faces of flowers. To the Chinese, the term of "life drawing" means the mastery of "life" as well as "liveliness". The handling of light and shadow and the refinement of details are not the focus of a painting. Rather, artists would repetitively observe the objects, study their forms and inherent qualities, and then accurately depict their images. It has been a usual practice for the literati-painters to entrust the subject matters with meanings. For example, the purity of lotus flower and the painter's inscription of "delicacy" are full of symbolic meanings. The characteristic of the flower is used as a metaphor for the value praised by the artist. Fruit Basket and San Francisco (Lot 1379) are Wang's small artistic creations. Still life and landscape are the artist's frequent subject matters. With his skilled control of the water level in his medium, Wang demonstrate dexterity in both of his watercolour and Chinese ink paintings in which he achieves a multi-layering visual effect.


    Private Collection, USA