signed in Chinese in the form of a seal mark, framed
Executed in 1972.
Taipei, Taiwan, Taiwan Museum of Art, Juelan, the Storm Art Society & 1930s' Shanghai, 1999.
People's Fine Art Publishing House, The Collection of Painting of Pang Xunqin, Beijing, China, 1998, p.49.
Taiwan Museum of Art, Juelan, the Storm Art Society & 1930s' Shanghai, 1999, pp.54-55 & cover image.
Art moves on, as we move on. But we must find time to turn and look back along the way we have come, and there on the path stand Huinkin Pang and Schudy....When we resume our journey into the future, we must not forget them.
Born at the turn of the 20th century, Pang Xunqin faced a challenge typical to many artists of his generation - that of creating a kind of Chinese art that both retains the essences of Chinese traditions but also embraces the new elements of Western art. Different artists explored different ways of dealing with this dilemma. Xu Beihong would rejuvenate traditional, elitist Chinese painting through his adoption of French academic classicism, while Lin Fengmian was enthusiastic about the potentials of modernism in bringing new pictorial language into the mostly monochromatic world of Chinese painting. Bearing a similar mission, Pang Xunqin's early works demonstrated influences of Cubism, Purism, Futurism and other Western art movements. Although his styles underwent dramatic changes due to social and political flux post 1949, the influences of his early education in Europe still remained evident in his later work.
Mostly executed in oil on canvas, with expressive brushworks and vivid colours, flower paintings were the most representative genre of Pang's late style. Graceful, passionate and delicate, Iris (lot 512) in this auction is such an example, signifying a synergy of his early education of modernism and his search for a "Chineseness" in oil painting in his later years. In this work, the background and the vase have been painted with quick brushstrokes typical of impressionism, while the flowers themselves have been carefully outlined, retaining characteristics of traditional Chinese flower painting. This combination of Western and Eastern art painting techniques can only be found in works of an artist who has both a solid training in Western oil painting and a profound understanding of Chinese art.
The path that Pang Xunqin chose in his reinterpretation of Chinese art was an endeavour that many western trained artists including Lin Fengmian, Ni Yide, Wu Dayu and several others undertook in their quest to rejuvenate Chinese art through adapting styles and elements of Western art. As one of the principle founders of the Storm Society, the earliest modernist art group in the 1930s, Pang Xunqin devoted his early years to promoting western modernism and using it to deal with subjects of concurrent social issues. Son of Earth, for example, painted in 1934, depicts the devastating consequences of a famine in Jiangsu Province. By using the typical colours of purism and by accurately adapting the format of pieta, Pang captures the heartbreaking emotion of a couple mourning the loss of their son.
During the Anti-Japanese war, Pang was relocated to the southwest of China. In Kunming, he was recommended by Liang Sicheng to join the preparation committee of the Central Museum. It was there that Pang was exposed to and developed a passion for the beauty of ancient Chinese art. During this period Pang was sent by the museum to research folk art in the Miao minority areas of Yunnan province. The vivid colour and elegant patterns in their folk costumes greatly inspired Pang in his later works. Thenceforth, he began to emphasize outlines and the effect of ink washes, which later became typical characteristics of his mature painting style.
Dam (lot 514) and Forest (lot 513) are examples of such later work. In the late 1970s, Pang visited the southeast coast of China where he painted many landscapes with ink on paper from life; Dam being one such example. Although there was already a trend of experimenting with traditional media in life landscape drawings, for many traditional landscape painters, such as Li Keran and Wu Hufan, the result was never satisfactory. With the pristine and accurate use of lines in Dam, the same cannot be said for Pang Xunqin's work, probably due to his training in Western painting.
In Dam, the rendition of the wave and surface of the building is quintessential of traditional Chinese landscape painting. At the same time, the work also bears the characteristics of Western art, with a single point perspective and clear layout of picture planes. Moreover, the use of short, quick and brief brushstrokes in the wave is similar to those of Renoir and Monet. The painting is a rare example of work that succeeds in displaying an elegant synergy of the different elements of both Western and Chinese art.
Similarly, Forest is also an extraordinary example demonstrating the artist's virtuosity in landscape painting. The use of different tones of green and the rendition of the composition which crops the scene into a close-up are adopted from Western pictorial tradition, while the subtle contrast between dark and bright and the ink-wash effect in the shadows are typically Chinese. The resulting painting succeeds in achieving a highly elegant subtlety that is unique to Pang's work.
Although Pang Xunqin's modernist approach was criticized post 1949, this trend was reversed in the 1980s. His distinguished style, resulting from his early European education and various experiences in China post 1949, is unprecedented in Chinese art history, and his combination of both Eastern and Western art principles has served to enrich his work and prove his integrity.
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