WU GUANZHONG (1919-2010)
Ancient Pine
signed in Chinese; dated '76' (lower left)
titled and signed in Chinese ; dated '1976' (on the reverse)
ink and colour on paper
50.4 x 39 cm. (19 13/16 x15 3/8 in.)
Painted in 1976
The Lu Fang Ge Collection of Chinese Paintings
Anon. sale, Christie's Hong Kong, 28 May 2010, Lot 782
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Wu Guanzhong - Watercolour & Gouache Paintings, Sin Hua Gallery, Singapore, 1990 (illustrated, plate 38).
Sin Hua Gallery, A Fine Collection of Prof. Wu Guanzhong's Works, Singapore, 1992 (illustrated, back cover).
Hong Kong, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, A Fine Collection of Prof. Wu Guanzhong's Works, 19-22 November 1992.

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Lot Essay

'I love the lacebark pine. I love the sturdiness and fullness of its trunk, the gracefulness of its gnarled branches, the mottled beauty of coloured spots covering its body.'
The Collection of Paintings Wu Guanzhong, 1990

Wu Guanzhong had a special preference for the lacebark pine, yet he produced only a handful of works with this particular theme, all of them were inspired by his love for it. He created four oil paintings featuring lacebark pine between 1975 and 1976. The present lot is a coloured ink painting executed in 1976. It is a reasonable assumption that there are no more than ten pine-themed works on the market and recorded in catalogues combined; this certainly makes creations of this motif a valuable standout among Wu's works.

The 70's marked a watershed year for Wu Guanzhong, as he made lacebark pine a predominant theme in his artistic journey. The Cultural Revolution took place in the 1960's and stopped his from creating art. Wu did not revisit his craft until 1972, the pent-up artistic energies exploded like fireworks. His creativity poured forth like a never-ending torrent. Ancient Pine (Lot 63), executed in 1976, is a statement of Wu's creative pinnacle - his strength and dynamism evident in the piece's presentation and technical details.

Ancient Pine is disclosed by a close-up composition at an upward angle. Wu places the main trunk of the tree in the centre of the work to accentuate the pine's upright and leading presence. The branches and twigs that take up one half of the space attest to Wu's remarkable skill in executing ink lines. Fluent and natural, the lines are present in a slender, strong, and rich manner; the application of the dry brush resembles a gusty wind and sudden rainstorm, the spirit and vivacity of the tree pervade the piece. By vertically dividing the composition into two, Wu draws the viewer's attention from the centre to the upper quadrant. Integrated applications of dotting, shading, axe-cutting and rubbing not only create a melodious atmosphere but also allow the viewer to experience the transition in Wu's creative journey from figurative to semi-abstraction. Whilst shaping this image of the pine, Wu also exhibits the subtle geometric and vibrant aesthetics in figurative landscape.

The barks fall off the trunk in irregularly-shaped pieces to form motley whites and browns, resulting in a pleasant effect. The trunk is graceful and upstanding, the crisscrossed branches and twigs are verdant. Wu draws inspirations for silhouettes, lines and colours from the natural, and then highlights their geometric and coloured elegance while sketching and portraying the vistas. The intercrossing and rambling branches morph into flowing lines; the vivid green new leafs evolve into the gathering and scattering of dots; the texture on the bark turn into various shades of lovely brown; and the grey blocks enrich the landscape with a unique vivacity. Colours and lines come alive as the centerpiece. Wu's singular, hallmark aesthetics are imprinted indelibly in viewer's mind, becoming a visually powerful and distinctive image. Complemented by a few throngs of crowd in dots, the mood of the piece becomes sprightly and brisk. Ancient Pine reveals the formation of an artistic style and evolutional path in Wu's career. The viewer could see from this piece that Wu no longer confined his artistic manifestation to 'resemblance' or 'simulation.' Rather, he derived colourful, spatial and linear aesthetics from nature to illustrate the veiled vitality and spirit in landscape, and embraced a magnificently beautiful new frontier.

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