(ZHU DEQUN, B. 1920)
Composition No. 191
signed in Chinese; signed 'CHU TEH-CHUN' in Pinyin; dated '64' (lower right); signed in Chinese; signed 'CHU TEH CHUN' in Pinyin; dated '1964'; titled 'No. 191' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
114.5 x 146 cm. (45 x 57 1/2 in.)
Painted in 1964
Private Collection, Europe

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Lot Essay

Chu Teh-Chun once acknowledged classical Chinese landscape painting as a major influence on his work, noting that he particularly admired the imposing style and lively manner of the 10th-century painter Fan Kuan. He added, "Fan Kuan has said that 'learning from nature is better than learning from man, and the human heart is an ever greater source for learning than nature." What he meant by that was that he considered the painter dominant, and that there was already a concept of abstraction. The Chinese people just didn't use the term 'abstraction,' that's all. Nature is absorbed into the artist's thought and then undergoes refinement, and it is the power of the artist's imagination, his sensibility, and his inner character that are revealed on the canvas. This is where the concepts behind Chinese painting and abstract painting very neatly come together." The most fundamental difference between the painting styles of the East and the West is that the lines produced by the calligraphy brush has always been essential to Chinese painting, whereas in the European tradition, which may have taken line as a starting point, there was a gradual shift toward the objects that the lines set out, meaning a greater attention to light and shadow, mass and weight, and various ways of softening or blurring outlines and reducing the importance of line. In Composition No. 191 (Lot 1021), the character of Chinese painting lies in the abstracting tendencies of brush and ink through which personality, mood, and conception are expressed. During and after the Sung dynasty, the personal, subjective aspects of artists' work became more and more a part of Chinese landscape painting, until their spiritual or psychological reaction took precedence over reproducing nature's forms and appearances. Chu Teh-Chun's style of abstraction, one that radiates the pure feeling of the artist, is likewise less involved with symbolism than it is with personal, lyrical expression. One can easily imagine mountain landscapes, waterfalls, and gushing springs in the free, evocative spaces of his paintings, spaces where you find yourself in communication with the artist, but even more, with nature and the universe.

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