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    Sale 2630

    Chinese 20th Century Art (Day Sale)

    1 December 2008, Hong Kong

  • Lot 607


    Price Realised  


    (ZHU YUANZHI, 1906-1963)
    Still Life with Lamp
    signed 'Yun Gee' in Pinyin (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    48 x 35 cm. (18 3/4 x 13 3/4 in.)
    Painted in 1929

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    The two early works of Yun Gee offered in this sale were created during the artist's San Francisco and Paris periods, truthfully presenting the rich roots, style and interest of his early artistic creations. Rooftops (Lot 608), created in 1926 during Yun's stay in San Francisco, holds valuable significance as many of his prior works before 1926 have gone missing. Therefore the current studies of Yun's works predominantly from 1926 as a starting point in representing landmark works for exploring the early artistic style of the artist, providing us a better understanding of his style and concerns during his formative years. At that time, "Synchromism" was prevalent in the art community and became the backbone of writers and artists of modern art in San Francisco, such as Otis Oifield, etc. From Rooftops, it's evident that in terms of the use of color and graphics, Yun Gee already skillfully incorporated himself into this artistic trend yet converted, refined and created works with his own personal style. The work turns figural objects, such as clusters of little houses and rooftops, into geometric shapes and color patches that crisscross with arcs. Yun separately coats various "blocks of surfaces" with green, red and light yellow colors, thus expressing a sense of musical rhythmic movements or speed through a strong contrast of colors, thus adopting qualities of cubism or Synchromism. However, the rich colors rejected by Cubists have been brought back into the picture through spectrum of color and illumination. The colors and geometric block surfaces can express a sense of music and rhythmic movements, while on the other hand take control of the composition of the picture, thus bringing to the work a steady structure over relative peace, leisure and rhythm. Cutting up figural objects and expressing them as geometric graphics also reflects the artistic taste of cubism. However, Yun Gee has not totally followed cubism by breaking up the objects into an obscure painting style and absolute formalism with multiple angled blocks. In his works, color blotches and geometric, rhythmic movements always remain focused on the contours of the figural objects. The objects seem to be fused in the rhythmic movements of color, but eventually are well defined, as if to express a vivid view with undulating arcs and layers, while also highlighting a rich spatial relationship between the layers. Still Life with Lamp (Lot 607) was created in 1929, the third year after Yun Gee arrived in Paris. Yun Gee stayed in Paris for only 3 years, but during this short span, he held multiple personal exhibitions. In the first year he studied in France, Yun Gee had already held personal exhibitions at several famous art galleries. At that time, he was only 23 years old. Daring and energetic, Yun Gee had a deep understanding and mastery of Figurative, Hyperrealism and Symbolism styles then popular in Europe and had even further progressed and enriched those artistic connotations, exhibiting an interest in style totally different from that of his works during his San Francisco days. In accordance, Yun Gee's artistic achievements came from an open attitude and an inclusiveness of different artistic thoughts, as well as a deep understanding of the spirit of his times. Despite his established reputation and signature painting style, after arriving in Paris, he still actively explored and incorporated the methods of expression from various schools of art. During this time, Yun Gee was influenced by super realism and was infatuated with Freud's theories, such as dream and psychiatric analyses, etc. In his paintings, he often revealed a strong dream-like quality, touching on philosophical subjects such as consciousness and the dialectics of life and death, etc. For this reason, the originally bright and rich colors were replaced by dark and gradually changing hues. Just like other works during this time, Still Life with Lamp reduced the colors used to mainly green, earth yellow and orange red, thus achieving the effect of a picture that is bright but not startling. The block surfaces and strong cold and warm contrasting hues often seen during the San Francisco period are no longer seen, and in their place Yun Gee adopts various tonalities of the same color, using of different changes in the same hues of yellow brown, dark yellow, dark red and light yellow colors, etc to convey a quiet, melancholic and mysterious atmosphere. In addition, this provokes an even more outstanding performance in the adjustment and control of the artistic conception and depth of emotions. The picture uses many line sketches and patches of the oriental aesthetics. The distribution of the color blotches also follows the actual status of the still objects or highlights the inherent structure of the picture making it appear more figural and realistic. In the painting, on the vertical and horizontal lines composed by the window, dark light and the center of the picture, oblique line structures are deployed to crisscross with curves of the tablecloth, which project quite a peaceful atmosphere of deep pondering, loneliness and bleakness. The picture is covered with triangular color blotches and seems to already have a practical prototype of "Diamondism"- a theoretic system developed by Yun Gee. It is a sensible concept for viewing objects and creating work, and includes nine elements mobilized in artistic creation including color, light, shape, mood, desire, observations, time, morals and purpose, etc. The artist believes that a systematic combination of these nine elements can disclose the essence of the substance and spirit of life and when they are specifically expressed in his work, they are represented by countless fine triangular color blotches. The emergence of such color blotches in Still Life with Lamp indicates that in terms of artistic thought, this work, together with many works after the 1930s that have Diamondist characteristics, can be traced to the same origin. Yun Gee's artistic creations during the Paris period changed from creations of colors and rhythmic movements into creations of lines, structure and personal bearing. Therefore, the painter also named this time the lyric period as he incorporated personal feelings, cultural roots and artistic conceptions in his works. Colors and picture compositions were less important than his artistic conceptions as he no longer analyzed objects with spectrum and scientific thinking but focused on a skillful lyrical expression of his artistic ideal; his personal spiritual quality and his deep pondering of life, as well as an exploration of philosophical subjects such as the consciousness of being and the dialectics of life and death, etc., thus embodying an oriental world view of humans responding to objects and the heart responding the environment.


    Lin & Keng Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
    Private Collection, Asia


    Lin & Keng Gallery Inc., The Artworks of Sanyu and Yun Gee, Taipei, Taiwan, 1994, p. 46. (illustrated)
    Lin & Keng Gallery Inc., Yun Gee, Taipei, Taiwan, 1995, pp. 40-41. (illustrated)


    Taipei, Taiwan, Lin & Keng Gallery, The Artworks of Sanyu and Yun Gee, 1994.