View of Central Park
oil on canvas
63.5 x 76 cm. (25 x 29 7/8 in.)
Painted circa 1950s
Acquired directly from the artist in 1960
Collection of Charles Chu, and thence by descent to the estate
Eldred's Galleries, East Dennis, Massachusettes, USA
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2010

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Lot Essay

As early as 1919, Wang Jiyuan had established himself as an oil painter, watercolourist in Shanghai, and founded the renowned art organization Tien Ma Society with Liu Haisu, promoting Western style painting and instilling new vitality into the art scene of the day. Having briefly lived in Japan from 1926 to 1928, Wang moved to the United States during the Sino-Japanese War and continued to flourish as an avid art educator, writing many treatises on art techniques and introducing Chinese aesthetic views.

Christie's is proud to present works from his creative years in the United States. Painted in 1963, Magnolia Tree (Lot 1199) is an important work within the artist's oeuvre that demonstrates his proficiency in the ink medium, rendering an exquisite elegance and refinement in the classical theme of the magnolia tree. A symbol of nobility and purity, the image features a classical subject in a modern pictorial space of a square, and the employment of shading to create three-dimensionality and volume while maintaining an aura of graceful elegance akin to the literati paintings. The significance of Wang in the development of modern art lies in his famous proficiency in both Chinese and Western media. By the 1930s, Wang Jiyuan had already been in Europe and Japan, allowing him to further his skills in oil painting. Painted when Wang was living in New York, View of Central Park (Lot 1143) illustrates the influence of C?zanne in his concern for careful composition and rhythmic integration of colour blocks, forms and lines. The artist renders himself in a rare and vivid image in Self-Portrait of the Artist (Lot 1198) painted in rich, vivacious colours. Confident and devoted to his art, the artist seems to allude to the answers of his philosophical existential search to being found through introspection in art.

In 1970, Wang held a joint exhibition with Zhang Daqian at the Smithsonian Museum, USA. He wrote then, 'The essence of modern Chinese brushwork is independence. It imitates not the ancient masters but exhibits a freedom of spirit that is the artist's very own. This individuality is disciplined by years of study and tested in the crucible of failure until it produces an art that combines the direct observation of nature of the West with the classic Chinese mastery of brush, paper and ink.'

An individualist, indeed, Wang continued to explore the fundamental concerns of form, lines and shapes up till his old age, and meticulous brushwork that are founded in his unique ability of combining Eastern and Western aesthetic approaches. In a series of highly well-formed, small-scaled compositions from the Belfield Trust Collection, USA (Lot 1154, 1200-1201), we see the essence of Wang's pervading effort in thoughtful compositional arrangements that are modeled to the effect of lofty, spurious ink paintings of the literati in traditional theme of still life and landscape, reminiscent of the subjects of forms of the ancient Mustard Seed Manual. In both watercolour and oil painting, Wang's rich creations demonstrate the efforts and successes in establishing dialogue between the aesthetic concerns and techniques of Western and Oriental art in 20th century China.

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