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SANYU (CHANG YU, CHINA, 1901-1966)
SANYU (CHANG YU, CHINA, 1901-1966)


SANYU (CHANG YU, CHINA, 1901-1966)
signed in Chinese; signed 'SANYU' (lower right)
ink and pen on paper
48 x 31.2 cm. (18 7/8 x 12 1/4 in.)
Private Collection, Japan
Private Collection, Asia
Rita Wong, The Li Ching Cultural and Educational Foundation, Sanyu Catalogue Raisonne: Drawings and Watercolors, 2015 (Electronic version retrieved from illustrated, plate D2291)

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Lot Essay

Sanyu arrived in Paris in 1921, then travelled to Berlin to visit Xu Beihong and Jiang Biwei. Upon his return to Paris in 1923 he began his study at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere in Boulevard du Montparnasse and remained in Paris until his death in 1966. In the early 20th century, a revolt against the conservative Ecole des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts) was launched, which opened up the possibilities for independent art (Sanyu was selected several times to show at the Salon des Independants). Important artists congregated at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere, included Alberto Giacometti, who had travelled from Switzerland to France in 1922, Louise Bourgeois, and Alexander Calder.

Montparnasse in the 1920s was a hub where many artists gathered, and Sanyu himself frequented the cafes in the area to observe pedestrians and sketch cafe patrons. The Academie facilitated Sanyu to observe human figures, which would later develop into his most celebrated subject, female nude.

In the memoirs of Pang Xunqin published in 1984, it is written that, "I always got along with Sanyu after recovering from sickness, he produced many sketches by Chinese brush; he was well-known and many people gathered around him; if the posture of model was good, he captured the model. He often depicted people around him, and focused on full female body; a sketch could be completed in 10 minutes. It is very curious that Sanyu had the ability to depict male or female; young or mature as female nude, which was well accepted. I thought this is how Sanyu experienced in Paris over the last decade". 1

Sanyu's figurative works, on one hand, revealed his fascinating imagination; on the other hand, demonstrated his exceptional technical control on line with varying degrees of opacity, thickness, solidness, lightness and strength.

1 Passing through, Pang Xunqin, Joint Publishing Co., 1984.

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