Lot 3
  • 3

Wu Guanzhong

2,800,000 - 3,800,000 HKD
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  • Wu Guanzhong
  • Lotus Pond
  • oil on board
signed in Chinese and dated 74


Christie's, Taipei, 12 April, 1998, lot 47
Acquired by the present owner from the above sale


This work is in good condition. There is evidence of light wear and abrasions along the edges of the painting and very thin craquelure and minor paint losses across the surface of the painting, revealing small spots of the board underneath, predominantly in the center and bottom part of the work, consist with the natural aging process of the medium. There is no evidence of restoration under UV.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Radiant glory looking up at the sky — Lotus Pond

Excellent close-up images instantly strike the heart. Lotus Pond focuses at an immediate distance on a white lotus in full bloom, surrounded by pink buds and seedpods, just like a bright moon encircled by stars. Thanks to the setting of a colourful lotus pond in mid-summer, the single white lotus's slender and erect stalk further accentuates its purity and refinement. After years of being "Sent-down", Wu Guanzhong was repatriated to Beijing in 1973. Soon after, he was commissioned to paint a mural for the Beijing Hotel. He made an extensive fieldtrip to the south, heading north from Suzhou, making his final leg from Chongqing to the capital in January the following year. Although the mural project was eventually pulled out because of the "black painting" incident, Wu reaped terrific returns during his travels, gathering countless inspirations from the Yangzi River and its environment. As the artist entered a new phase in his creative life, his output showed a new surge of energy. Lotus Pond, finished during that period, is a laudable extension of his Lotus series.

Exquisite Technique Imbued with Spirit and Determination

The composition of Lotus Pond is well-balanced. Wu places the white lotus close-up at the centre with direct light sources from above, the flower standing as straight as an arrow, creating a vertical flow of energy. No matter how tall a lotus flower grows out of the water, we usually cannot view it from below. Yet the artist employs an unexpected perspective to emphasize its chaste, almost sacred beauty. The surrounding buds are also attached to the straight stems arranged neatly, rounded and full, just like arrows or a host of tubes pointing at the sky. In this painting, the artist not only altered his viewpoint from eye-level to below the flower but also pulled objects much closer in view, using realistic, fine brushwork instead of freehand. Determined to amplify the appearance of the white lotus, Wu applied details such as red borders on the petal tips, anthers inside stamen, as well as light seeping through the petals. Although Wu's aesthetic approach is close to academic realism, the creative process was based on chronicling nature.

A fine piece is not measured merely by its scale. To be able to create weight out of lightness and to project a macrocosm out of microcosm are the hallmarks of a true master. Compared with Lotus Flowers (Lot 538) on offer in the day sale, on either a spiritual or stylistic level, Lotus Pond shares the same legancy yet also registers change. Essentially, a flower in bloom, its stalk ramrod amidst numerous lotus buds, is emblematic of its prime. Whether this painting is based on a real setting or purely from Wu's imagination, Lotus Pond reflects an artist's inimitable approach in selecting subjects. Using flora and fauna to express one's strong feelings is not only a tradition of the East; among Western masters, van Gogh brought a remarkable autobiographical mindfulness into his sunflower portraits, all of which are modern masterpieces in their own right. Lotus Pond continues where Lotus Flowers leaves off, yet contains a distinct spirit and vision. The two paintings comprise the duality of a two-act play, following the artist's evolution in sentiment and thought.