After arriving in New York in 1949, Wang studied Western painting at the Arts Students League in New York and from then on paired his insights with his connoisseurship for Chinese paintings. His astute understanding of Western art history and exceptional skill for traditional brushwork are revealed in his elegant, yet complex landscape paintings. As evident in the earliest work of his in this sale, Landscape No. 79 (Lot 543) is one of the experimental works during this early period. In the late 1960s, after being exposed to Western art for more than twenty years and accumulating his experience as a collector and connoisseur of Chinese art, Wang realized the true essence of Guo Xi's 'naturalism'. 1 Naturalism here refers to instinctive, free and impromptu, similar to the "sounds of nature" described in the Daoist classic Zhuangzi. As the artificial sounds made from a musical instrument ultimately do not compare to the wild and harmonious sounds of nature, rigid and deliberate composition cannot surpass the results of free improvisation without constraint. Drawing upon this principle, in this landscape Wang uses crumpled paper balls as his 'brush' to sketch the basic composition, and then adds contrasting details – mountains and waterfalls, cliffs and strange rocks, trees and winding paths, villages with small cottages – in Song-style brushwork, to achieve a sense of nature full of visual pleasure and fantasy.
Wang's artistic reformation did not stabilize until early 1980s, when he was no longer bound by arbitrary creativity. Thereupon he developed and finalized his distinctive personal style based on his former training in traditional painting techniques. This is evident his 1980s paintings of Landscape (Lot 545) and Snowscape No. 432 (Lot 546) that combine rich colours into majestic, imaginary landscapes of the mind. In 1987, Wang met the artist Yu Chengyao in Taipei, and was greatly influenced by Yu's self-taught brushwork expressions and meticulous compositions (see Lot 511). Wang absorbed the spontaneity and deliberate nature of Yu's techniques into forming his own style in the depiction of mountains with smooth contours, fluid vitality and visual density, as seen in both his 1987 and 1988 Landscapes (Lots 508 and 542).2 Ultimately, the success of CC Wang's works lies in part in their aesthetic beauty, but more importantly in the preservation of the literati spirit through their technical quality and intellectual virtuosity.
C.C. Wang was celebrated throughout his lifetime as an artist, collector, critic and connoisseur. His paintings are prominently exhibited in major institutions in China and the US. His works are part of notable permanent collections including, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harvard University's Fogg Art Museum, The Brooklyn Museum, New York, Asian Art Museum San Francisco, Taipei National Museum of History, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, and the Shanghai Art Museum.
1 Stanley-Baker, Joan. The Exhibition of C.C. Wang, Taipei Fine Art Museum, 1994, p. 16
2 Ibid., p. 17
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