(CHANG YU, 1901-1966)
Potted Chrysanthemums
signed 'Sanyu; Yu' in Chinese & French (lower right)
oil on board
99 x 80.5 cm. (39 x 31 1/2 in.)
Painted in 1940s-1950s
Private Collection, USA
Sale room notice
Please kindly note that Lot 553 has the below literature record:
Rita Wong, Yageo Foundation and Lin & Keng Art Inc., Sanyu Catalogue Raisonne: Oil Paintings, Taipei, Taiwan, 2001, p. 78. (illustrated in black & white)

Lot Essay

An Autumn Night
The painted screen is chilled in silver candlelight,
She uses silken fan to catch passing fireflies.
The steps seem steeped in water when cold grows the night,
She lies watching heart-broken stars shed in the skies.
Du Mu

Poetry and painting conceptions in Potted Chrysanthemums

Viewing paintings by Sanyu often makes audience unconsciously numb to the profound aesthetics expressed in his paintings. The achievements by Sanyu in contemporary fine art are the integration of oriental poems, conceptions and traditional concepts in his paintings. For thousands of years, the development of the Chinese philosophy and arts were a paralleled progression, where great philosophers, poets and painters strove to discover perfect harmony and wisdom between these three fields.

An excellent poem must be equipped with six major basic elements: allignment, rhyme, trope, style, feelings, and conceptions. Rhyme dictates that beautiful poetry must offer readers with the smooth and spiritual feelings; allignment determines sustained balance; expression of feeling and conceptions express the spirituality behind the poem. One must discover the character and mood of the poet, experience his aesthetics and in turn, transform that fleeting moment into eternity. With this concept in mind we review the paintings by Sanyu and find strong correspondence to it.

In traditional Chinese painting, lines not only outline objects but depict the unique concept of blankness in Chinese painting and calligraphy. In the poems, smooth and balanced beauty emphasize the alignment, while rhyme appropriately explain the close connections between linear structures in Sanyu's paintings and literature. In Sanyu's eyes, the three-dimensionality purported by the West and oriental aesthetics become close creative elements; with simple lines, San separates flat narrative space from traditional oriental paintings into light and dark regions, applying oriental tones to import literal conceptions, leading the audience towards a territory where coexistence of sound, color, light and shade culminate, a very important achievement in Sanyu's painting works.

Potted Chrysanthemums (Lot 553) is one of Sanyu's still-life flower works in the early 40s, showing clear differences in style when compared with other paintings of the same genre. By analysing three similar paintings in structural composition to color application, Yellow Chrysanthemums painted during the early 1940s and the current piece both adopt subtle blues to the point of dark black, which to Sanyu, represents the infinite profound space on the picture and the profound and elegant imaginary world, containing not only the silence and quietness, but also the mystery and grace that the colours blue and black achieve respectively. In the structuring of Potted Chrysanthemums, Sanyu deliberately preserves the unique table separation that his works of still-life flowers in 1930s always contain, enabling the white chrysanthemums in the pot under the hidden-blue sky to have enough light and shade to associate it to the night light and stars. Sanyu most likely felt a strong spirituality and the abstract ideas brought about by the tone in this pictures markedly affects the works of Chrysanthemums in a Glass Vase and White Flowers in a Glass Vase, completed by him in 1950s, in which Sanyu elevated the background blue and white color of the principal objects in the pictures to attain a more abstract and conceptual expression. The formation of this concept can be traced back to structuring of Potted Chrysanthemums, what we see is that Sanyu's resimplification of the structures and tones in his early-year still-life flower paintings, by simply emphasizing the contrast between blue and white. If we analyze his work through tones and lines, Sanyu conveys his painting style with the coexistence of material and abstract conceptions with skillful and deliberate application of technique.

As indicated in the data published as far, the quantity of the flower works with blue as a principal tone within the works of Sanyu is very rare. Completed in the 1940s, Potted Chrysanthemums is a masterpiece that fully represents the special conceptions and aesthetic movement Sanyu wished to express through his flower-themed paintings of the period.

A bowl of Fruits
Sanyu integrates oriental and western aesthetic viewpoints, in turn profoundly exhibiting his understanding of the essence of Chinese culture, applying unique techniques and poetic structures to express his passionate and free personal painting style. In terms of brush stroke and application of ink, Sanyu applies simple and soft lines in the manner of Chinese calligraphy to express a distinct lyricism. Sanyu has become a representative artist in École de Paris post 1930's, and his works were also exhibited in the Autumn Saloon, Independence Saloon and Salon des Tuileries many times.

Among Sanyu's works during the 1930s is an attempt to emphasize the purity of still-life paintings and convey Chinese concepts with minimum colors. In structuring his paintings, he simplifies visually objective objects and adds a simple geometric background, such structure enabling him to highlight the sense of deep space. In his paintings, he scratches away colour to produce the contours of shapes and objects he wishes to produce, by means of reduction, Sanyu creates from darkness and gives his art light and life. Sanyu's works under this theme is as much an examination of still life as it is an examination of his philosophy in life.

A bowl of Fruits(Lot 552) can be seen as a rare work on still-life by Sanyu during the early 1930s. In terms of structure treatment, A bowl of Fruits fully represents the unique thoughts and imaginations of Sanyu, and creates forms filled with "conceptions", enabling the audience to capture its full sense of beauty and essence. In addition, Sanyu develops very unique line tones and space expression to skillfully distinguish the relationship between the principal objects and the background in the picture, and with his painting pen, Sanyu scratches fruits and the plate in a big gray background, vividly presenting pink peaches, green pears and dark grapes on a white plate, skillfully solidify an original flat space to produce an infinite sense of space. Tones, lines and spaces naturally integrate into a harmonious and bright whole, an outstanding masterpiece by Sanyu.

The artistic world of Sanyu can be described as one filled with an artistic ideal to draw infinity onto a finite canvass. Through his paintings, Sanyu brings out a Chinese spirit and integrates Chinese and western cultures with a passionate aesthetic sensibility. Sanyu's outstanding reinterpretation and representation spans over oriental and western viewpoints, preserving concepts of outlines and blankness in traditional Chinese water-ink painting, introducing Western spatial structure and closely combining them. The combination of these two factors as a development of contemporary Chinese painting has been influential, Sanyu's creations burst onto the canvas with oriental aesthetic sensibilities, laying down his unique status in the art world.

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