WU GUANZHONG (1919-2010)
WU GUANZHONG (1919-2010)
WU GUANZHONG (1919-2010)
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WU GUANZHONG (1919-2010)
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WU GUANZHONG (1919-2010)

A Hill City

WU GUANZHONG (1919-2010)
A Hill City
Scroll, mounted and framed, ink and colour on paper
137 x 67.5 cm. (53 7⁄8 x 26 5⁄8 in.)
With two seals of the artist
Ming Pao Monthly Vol. 12, Issue 5 (main issue 142), Hong Kong Ming Pao Company Limited, Hong Kong, October 1977, illustration page (no pagination).
Chinese Paintings Calendar, The Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, 1979, plate May.
Wu Guanzhong-Sixty Years of Encounters with Hong Kong: 1950-2010, in Lofty Integrity: Donation of Works by Wu Guanzhong exhibition catalogue, Hong Kong Museum of Art, August 2010, p.146.
Shenzhen Exhibition Hall, Exhibition of Beijing Rong Bao Zhai Woodblock Prints, Calligraphy and Paintings, 1977.
Further details
Born in 1950, Sir William Ehrman is a retired British diplomat and ambassador who is fluent in Chinese. He was stationed in Mainland China and Hong Kong in his early years and participated in the Sino-British negotiations on the handover of Hong Kong in the 1980s. He later served as Political Adviser to the Hong Kong Government, the Principal Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the British Ambassador to Luxembourg. He served as British Ambassador to China from 2006 to 2010.

Ehrman attended Eton College and then Trinity College, Cambridge, from which he graduated with a first-class honours degree in Chinese in 1973. He joined the Foreign Office immediately after graduation, studied Chinese further in Hong Kong from 1975 to 1976 and was then assigned to British Embassy in Beijing from 1976 to 1978, first as Third and later as Second Secretary.

In 1978 when Ehrman and his wife lived in Beijing, Mrs Ehrman visited Rong Bao Zhai with the wife of the then British Ambassador to China, Sir Edward Youde (who later became the 26th Governor of Hong Kong), and came across this work. The Ehrmans purchased the piece. The work travelled with them to their various postings and returned to the United Kingdom with them, where it has remained in their collection to this day.

Brought to you by

Carmen Shek Cerne (石嘉雯)
Carmen Shek Cerne (石嘉雯) Vice President, Head of Department, Chinese Paintings

Lot Essay

A Hill City is one of Wu Guanzhong’s rare masterpieces in ink and colour from the seventies. The entire painting is over four feet long, with a mixture of dots, lines, and surface, and almost no blank spaces, demonstrating Wu Guanzhong’s enthusiasm for the transition from oil to ink painting in the late seventies. According to the published records, the painting is titled “A Hill City,” possibly depicting the area around Chongqing or Sichuan of southwest China.

The composition is different from the flattened perspective of traditional landscapes. Starting from the foot of the mountain, the body of hills rises upwards along with the tall trees. The mighty mountains are dotted with the colours of the people living in the mid-levels so that it is not impermeable. Though the mountain is steep, a narrow path of stairs curves through the mass to lead up to the clouds, giving a sense of dynamism in the otherwise vertical structure. At the top of the hill is the “Hill City,” where modern buildings are stacked and arranged, becoming one of the focal points of the painting.

The work was created at the end of the seventies when a decade of political turmoil ended, and the art world welcomed a breath of freedom. Wu used his art and brush to express and vent the years of frustration. The collector and his wife recalled that they had first seen this work in an exhibition at the National Art Museum of China between late 1977 and early 1978 and that it was one of the first works of art at the time that did not depict themes of “workers, peasants, and soldiers.” Shortly after its completion, A Hill City was exhibited at Shenzhen Exhibition Hall’s Exhibition of Beijing Rong Bao Zhai Woodblock Prints, Calligraphy, and Paintings in Hong Kong in 1977, and was well-received by the Hong Kong audience, with tens of thousands of visitors attending the event. A photo of the painting was later published in the October 1977 issue of Ming Pao Monthly. This was also the first time Wu Guanzhong’s name and work appeared in a Hong Kong publication. The exhibition of this painting and its publication in a Hong Kong magazine were of great significance as they marked a turning point in Wu’s creative career, where he came under the international spotlight for the first time in the beginning of a new era in society.

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