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

Peach Blossoms

WU GUANZHONG (1919-2010)
Peach Blossoms
signed and dated in Chinese (lower right);signed and titled in Chinese (on the reverse)
oil on board
45 x 60 cm. (17 3/4 x 23 5/8 in.)
Painted in 1963
Private Collection, Asia
Christie’s Hong Kong, 28 May 2006, Lot 171
Private Collection, Asia
Christie's Hong Kong, 24 November 2018, Lot 17
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
China Three Gorges Publishing House, Art of Wu Guanzhong 60’s-90’s, Beijing, 1996 (illustrated, plate 54, p. 75).
National Museum of History Editing Committee (ed.), Arts of Wu Guanzhong, Taipei, 1997 (illustrated, p. 131).
Mountain Art Museum, Contemporary Chinese Collection (1) Wu Guanzhong, Kaohsiung, 1997 (illustrated, p.49).
Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, The Complete Works of Wu Guanzhong Vol. II, Changsha, 2007 (illustrated, p. 146).
Taipei, National Museum of History, Mountain Foundation, Min Sheng Daily, Arts of Wu Guanzhong, 10 May – 6 July 1997. This exhibition later travelled to Kaohsiung, 12 July - 14 September 1997.
Sale room notice
Please note lot 7 has additional signature details in Chinese on the reverse. Please visit Christies.com for further information.

請注意拍品編號7畫背有藝術家親簽之款識 ‘吳冠中 桃花’,詳情請參閱佳士得網站。

Brought to you by

Jacky Ho (何善衡)
Jacky Ho (何善衡) Senior Vice President, Deputy Head of Department

Lot Essay

'What I look for are simple, down-to-earth scenes, scenes which virtually no one will notice, but which harbor eternal vitality within them. In those silent places you can hear powerful thunder!' —Wu Guanzhong

In 1962 and 1963, Wu Guanzhong travelled to several scenic destinations such as Weishan Lake and Fuchun River and did abundant sketches. Inspiration struck him along the journey, crystallising into this 1963 Peach Blossoms, his only oil work from the 1960s to show blossoming trees. With the view of mountains and villages as the backdrop, peach trees, radiating fresh vitality, extend upward from their roots at the bottom of the canvas and reach almost to its top edge. The present work testifies to Wu's varied, vivid brushwork, his inventive composition, and his graceful handling of form. It is an outstanding example of his ability to blend the Eastern and Western styles during his formative period.

Historically, the imagery of flowering branches in Chinese culture has always symbolised prosperity and good fortune. In a sign of the market's interest in this theme, early this year a similar Wu Guanzhong painting, Plum Blossoms, sold at auction for over 100 million Hong Kong dollars. For Wu’s particular artistic interests, ‘flowering trees’ had been a representative subject matter over his lifetime. The organic arrangement between flowers, leaves, and branches makes them perfect vehicles for exploring the relationship between dots and lines. Wu would then return to this subject, in oil and ink mediums over the following decades, as he continually searched for formal perfection. While Peach Blossoms is an early attempt at depicting trees in bloom, it nevertheless displays a mature grasp of the graceful rhythms of dots and lines. Wu outlines the spreading branches with firm, sweeping brushstrokes while using short, dense strokes in the tree trunks. He paints the delicate pink blooms with quick, swirling gestures in various shades of rouge, which are interspersed with occasional leaves in bright green. In one respect, he uses thick pigments, leaving fascinating impasto, as did Van Gogh in Almond Blossom. At the same time, his execution alludes to the style of the Monk of Huaguang from the Song Dynasty, who painted plum blossoms in ink by abstracting flowers into circles and branches into lines. Coloured blossoms dancing among crisscrossing branches turn Peach Blossoms into a light and lively symphony of springtime music.

Wu also conceives of an ingenious special arrangement in Peach Blossoms. He once wrote, ‘I am not satisfied with Impressionist style sketching, which is always limited to a certain visual range; I am also not satisfied pursuing the literary conceptions of traditional Chinese landscape painting, where one could imaginatively wander through or inhabit the scene.’ He therefore chose to reconstruct his landscapes by selectively merging his studies done on-site from different spots and perspectives. Here, peach trees are presented from a higher view, and the village and fields in the distance from a more horizontal perspective. Between them are meandering, undulating fields and ridges that link the foreground and the background together. Wu's composition resembles the calm and placid view of Snowy Landscape with Rustic Riverside Retreat from the Southern Song period. Yet his more vivid oil pigments add greater layering and overall unity to Peach Blossoms. Using ochre in the corners on the right side, he pushes back the ground at the foot of the peach trees, simultaneously lifting the hillsides that appear through their branches. The hillsides are depicted in varied shades of green to help set off the ridges running through them. Further in the sight, several touches of emerald green and golden yellow brighten up the overall picture. They also serve to bring the viewer's attention to the peaceful dwellings with white walls and black tiles in the distance. Fusing the flowering hillside and the tranquil village scape, Peach Blossoms evokes a vision of springtime warmth and awakening.

Concluding his studies in France in 1950, Wu Guanzhong returned to China determined to integrate elements from East and West and to renew the Chinese art. Landscape painting became his starting point as well as an anchor point for achieving that goal over the next fifty years, as he absorbed the traditions of both Chinese and Western painting. He integrated the colour and body of oils with the breadth and liveliness of Chinese painting, developing a personal style that transcended individual themes and mediums, and ultimately reached across time and geographic boundaries too. The 1960s is the first summit of this creative process. Peach Blossoms, a representative work from this period, embodies Wu Guanzhong's mastery of both Eastern and Western art, his seasoned compositional skills, and his bold, abstractive attempt. The exploration of elements including composition, brushwork, and colour that he undertook in Peach Blossoms would reappear in his later works now in renowned museum collections, such as his Sunshine after Snow in the Mountain Village and Gulang Islet, indicating the far-reaching significance the present work would have in Wu Guanzhong's creative career.

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