- Wu Guanzhong
- Under the Great Wall
- oil on board
- 45.9 by 61 cm.; 18 by 24 in.
Executed in 1974
The Complete Works of Wu Guanzhong, Volume. II, China, 2007, Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, pp. 264-265
A leading figure in 20th Century Chinese art who devoted his entire life to the modern art, Wu Guanzhong firmly believed that "all styles and forms of art originate from living, and works of art should not lose their emotional connection with the masses". Although he trained in France earlier in life, Wu was determined to return to his motherland because he considered China the only place that could nurture him. Although he was sent to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution where he could not paint, he maintained a positive attitude despite the adverse political and living conditions. When he had the chance to resume his art in the early 1970s, he continued to focus on the Chinese landscape and nationalist subject matters, moving his viewers through his artistic output.
Completed in 1974, Under the Great Wall is an important work of this period. Wu once said that "the immense length of the Great Wall thrills many who visit it, and when people climb up to the watch towers they become nostalgic, struck by awe of the entirety of this historical structure. Every beacon tower and every stone leads us to ponder"  .As a painter, Wu treasured the emotional response visual representations evoke. In this work, what is remarkable is that Wu did not exaggerate his portrait of the Great Wall, only presenting it at the top right hand corner extending slightly to the left. The Great Wall appears as if merely ornamental. The viewer needs much closer examination to identify the watch tower at the top right hand corner; and the electric tower at the top left hand corner can be read as a symbol of China's modernization.
This composition focuses on the magnificent, continuous mountain range sitting under the Great Wall. In this way, the artist reiterates his own emphasis on the solid earth and nature rather than the lofty and ambitious human edifice. Wu's ingenious use of colour is impressive: at the foot of the fully-textured mountain range are pink-coloured spring blossoms and walkers wearing red, adding vibrancy to the canvas. This work has been in a private collection for more than a decade before making its way to the market, providing a rare opportunity for collectors.
Wu Guanzhong, The Works of Wu Guanzhong, Hebei People's Art Publishing, Beijing, 2008, p.103