Lot 87
  • 87

Wang Yidong

400,000 - 600,000 USD
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  • Wang Yidong
  • Yi River
  • signed in Chinese and dated 1993
  • oil on canvas
  • 73 7/8 by 69 3/4 in. 187.5 by 177 cm.


Schoeni Art Gallery, Hong Kong
Private Collection, Germany


Hong Kong, Art Asia Hong Kong, Wang Yi Dong &  Chinese 'Neo Realism', November 17-21, 1994, p. 25, illustrated in color
Hong Kong, Schoeni Art Gallery, Wang Yidong, 1996, pp. 86-87, illustrated in color


Works by Wang Yidong, Beijing, 2001, illustrated in color
Highlights from Contemporary Artists: Wang Yidong, Beijing, 2000, p. 13, illustrated in color
History of Chinese Oil Painting: From Realism to Post-Modernism, Hong Kong, 1995, p. 51, illustrated in color
Wang Yidong, Macao, 1993, p. 110-111, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

Wang Yidong was born in 1955 in the Yimeng Mountain area of Shandong Province.  He graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1982 and remains a professor there today.  Wang’s work characteristically portrays the people of his native region, and Yi River (1993, Lot 87) is exemplary of his prodigious talent. 

Yi River depicts a young woman in pigtails balancing on a small rock in transparent, placid water at the river’s edge.  On the prominent rock behind her lies another young woman, apparently sleeping.  The relationship between the two – one dozing while the other amuses herself – is unclear, which lends a snapshot like intimacy to Wang’s carefully arranged, shallow space. 

Yi River is a masterpiece of exquisite surface details and pictorial composition.  While the hyper-realist portrayal of the scene – the remarkable textures of rocks, water, skin, hair, and fabrics – declares Wang’s complete mastery of the medium, the composition itself achieves a perfection that transcends reality and verges towards the purity of geometric abstraction.  Note, for example, the centrally positioned ‘x’ created by the balancing of the massive dark stone upon the gray stones partially obscured by the water; this roots the central protagonist at the center of the image as the graceful extension of her arms echoes the linearity of the water’s edge.   

The figure’s balancing act at the center of the composition serves in some sense as an allegory of the painter’s ambitions in the picture.  Poised between realism and idealism, between the intimate naturalism of a photograph and a fugal repetition of lines and forms, Yi River achieves a serene harmony that lends a metaphysical resonance to the simple act of keeping steady.  But while the figure’s pose may suggest Christ on the Cross and directly reference the tradition of Western painting from which Chinese neorealism draws its lessons, the enchanting work offers just enough compositional irregularity and ambiguity of narrative content to retain its integrity as a pastoral scene of youthful innocence on the banks of the Yi River.