Wang Jiyuan was a significant artist in the development of modern art history in China. He was famous for his proficiency in both Chinese and Western media, including ink painting, watercolor and oil painting. As early as 1919, Wang was a founder of the renowned art organization "Heavenly Horse Society" with Liu Haisu. Afterwards, he held a position at the Shanghai Art School (Shanghai Mei Zhuan), the first professional art academy in China, as a professor for twelve years and was very very active in Shanghai art circles throughout that period. Accompanied with Liu Haisu, Pan Yuliang and Guan Liang, Wang Jiyuan became a leading figure promoting and tutoring Western oil painting. His efforts in discovering new talent was noted and praised at the time; for example, he personally recommended Chen Chengbo to teach in Shanghai, and spearheaded "The First Chinese Female Artist Exhibition" for Pan Yuliang, furthering her reputation and spurring Xu Beihong to invite her as a lecturer at the Central University. From 1926 to 1928, Wang studied and held exhibitions in Tokyo. In Shanghai and even later in the America, Wang still continued to write treatises on art techniques and introducing Chinese aesthetic views. In 1941, he moved to the USA and established the School of Chinese Brushwork through which he promoted Chinese art for twenty years. In the 1970s, Wang held a joint exhibition with Zhang Daqian in the Smithsonian Museum, USA, cementing Wang's reputation for providing a window for the West to understand Chinese art. Towards the end of this life, Wang lived alone in Taipei, but still held firmly to his creative and scholarly instincts, studying the lines and inscriptions of Oracle bones everyday, producing in his final years nearly a hundred unique paintings.
An overview of Wang's creation shows his early mastery of watercolor. By the end of the 1920s Wang Jiyuan had already been in Europe and Japan, allowing him to further his study of oil painting. His earliest works employed oil in thin layers and a restricted palette, characteristic of his watercolor works at the time. Later the influence of Paul Cezanne led him to pay increased attention to technical analysis and the composition of objects. Lady in Blue and Necklace (Lot 1359) were created approximately in the 1940s or 1950s; when Wang first arrived in the United States, he held an exhibition featuring a series of works featuring Western ladies, a theme which allowed him to better understand American society and life style. Despite settings, subject matter and even a medium that were all essentially Western in origin, Wang was able to bring an Eastern quietude to the scene. Wang's Chinese cultural background is manifested indirectly by the figure who, with a shy and gentle manner, stands still with her hand comfortably reserved on her chest. With smooth and sophisticated brushstrokes, the oil paintings in this period display Wang's attention to composition and a use of color that contributes to the heaviness and thickness of the canvas. Wang's pre-eminent virtuosity in multiple media and subject matter can also be scene in the variety of still-lifes, landscape, and figurative works also highlighter here in the spring auction. Realistically yet casually manipulated, still-lifes in watercolor like White Narcissus and Red Stool (Lot 1360), Lotus, Potted Plant, Cityscape (Lot 1361), Artichoke and Melon, Potted Flowers and Roses in Jar (Lot 1363) are executed with an exquisitely free flowing brush and supple use of color, revealing Wang's rhythmic lines and elegant gradations of pigment, and imbuing his subjects with the quiet, noble, and poetic aura of the Orient.