Lot 35
  • 35

Hua Tianyou

900,000 - 1,500,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Hua Tianyou
  • Female Body No. 3
  • bronze
  • 75 by 27 by 22 cm.; 29 1/2 by 10 5/8 by 8 5/8 in.
inscribed in Chinese
executed in 1945 and cast in bronze in 1996, this work is number 2 from an edition of 8.


Private Asian Collection


Nanjing, High School Affiliated to Nanjing University Auditorium, Sculptures by Hua Tianyou, May 1948
Beijing, National Beiping Art College Auditorium, Sculptures by Hua Tianyou, 10 – 17 October 1948
Beijing, National Art Museum of China, The Master's Way – Review of Hua Tianyou's Works, 27 April – 8 May 2001
Beijing, National Art Museum of China, Times Dignity – Hua Tianyou Donation Exhibition, 27 March – 5 April 2008
Beijing, CAFA Art Museum, CAFA 90th Anniversary Celebration, 18 – 30 October 2008
Shanghai, China Art Museum, The Exhibition for the Noted Painters – Hua Tianyou, 1 October 2012 (Indefinite Period)


Liu Yuhe, ed., Hua Tianyou, People’s Fine Arts Publishing House, Beijing, 1993, p. 37
Fan Dian, ed., Hua Tianyou, Phoenix Publishing & Media, Inc. & Jiangsu Fine Arts Publishing House, Nanjing, 2007, pp. 54–55
Shanghai Art Museum, ed., Series of Selected Works by Masters from Collections – Hua Tianyou, Shanghai People’s Fine Arts Publishing House, Shanghai, 2012, pp. 20–21

Catalogue Note

The Pioneer of Modern Chinese Sculpture: Female Body No. 3 of Hua Tianyou

“Hua Tianyou was one of the greatest Chinese sculptors over the past century. His art unquestionably achieves the task of combining the East and the West, fusing the past and the present. His work embodies the essence of Western sculpture and was full of the spirit of Chinese culture. Right now, a new wave Chinese sculpture is on the rise, which allows us to fully appreciate the value of Hua Tianyou. He and his works have an important position in the endless flow of art history.
- Wu Zuoren

Sculpture has a long history in the West. Since the Greek era, the human body has become the focus of sculpture. The ideal golden ratio of the body was also established during that era. In the Renaissance, artists led by Michelangelo released sculptures from the doctrines of the Medieval Ages, redirecting sculpture back to the road of humanism. After the Baroque and Rococo periods, in the 19th century, August Rodin created his sculptures completely based on the actual proportions of his models. He also expressed emotions through the body language of his characters and pushed forward the artistic achievements of sculpture to its pinnacle. Looking back at the development history of sculpture in China, Chinese sculpture also has its own context. However, it was seen as a craft or categorized as work of religious purposes. Makers of sculptures were not seen as “sculptors” but anonymous craftsmen. Nevertheless, from the bronze work in the Shang and Zhou Dynasties and the porcelain figurines of the Qin and Han to the stone caves of the Tang and Song, sculpture in China has revealed the genius of Chinese craftsmen. Until the 20th century, with the influx of Western classic and modern art, Chinese sculpture began to experience change. It gradually ascended to a humanistic and artistic level. Among the first overseas artists, Hua Tianyou had the deepest understanding of sculpture in both Chinese and Western culture. He also made a specific contribution to the modernization of Chinese sculpture. With his tireless and diligent studies, he finally had a comprehensive understanding of the Western sculpture system with the help of Chinese classic art theory. After being able to completely grasp the essence of Western sculpture, he successfully extrapolated Chinese modernism with his abundant creations. The Female Body No. 3  (Lot 35) presented at this auction was completed during the artist’s confident and mature stage after he won the golden medal of “Spring Art Salon Paris” and is an excellent representation of his work.

The First Man of Modern Chinese Sculpture

Hua has been praised as the master modern Chinese sculpture. The government of China commissioned him to create many important works. Hua and Liu Kaiqu led the construction of People’s Heroes Monument erected in Tiananmen Square, and Hua created The May Fourth Movement relief in person. He set an example for the public art in China. Hua was born in a carpenter family in Jiangsu Province during the late Qing dynasty. He practiced wood work at an early age and was self-educated. He laid his artistic foundation at Xinhua Academy of Art summer school in Shanghai. In 1930, Xu Beihong, who was teaching at Central University in Nanjing, recognized Hua’s talent. Xu recommended that Hua participate in the maintenance of the thousand-year-old Baosheng Temple in Suzhou. Cai Yuanpei organized the project over a period for two years. The Buddhist arhats in the temple were said to be created by the “sage of sculpture” of the Tang dynasty, Yang Hui. Hua then had the opportunity to be personally involved in traditional Chinese sculpture theory and technique. Later, Hua accompanied Xu to Paris for an exhibition in 1933. Hua then enrolled in the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts and began his 15-year student life in France.

For Hua, the “combination of the East and the West” was not just his goal in artistic creation but also a natural process in his learning of art. It was very difficult for him to study in France in the beginning due to linguistic and cultural barriers. However, relying on the Chinese art concepts that he was familiar with, he comprehended the essence of Western sculpture using the “Six Methods” of Xie He of the Southern Dynasties. Among them, “lively spirit,” “outline and brush,”  “composition,” and “sketch and copy” were most helpful to him. The Spring Art Salon in Paris has selected Hua’s work since 1933, and the Salon awarded Hua with bronze and silver medals successively. After ten years of effort, Hua finally won a gold medal in 1943. In addition, his Maternal Love and Bombarding were collected by Paris City Hall and Musée National d’Art Moderne in succession. In his artist statement, he believed that he reached “the pinnacle of the academic art” when he won the golden medal. The original figure of Female Body No. 3 was completed during that period.

Integrating Shapes and Forms with “Lively Spirit”

With the development of anatomical studies, Western modern sculpture accomplished very high achievements in the field of the human body. However, seen as art, sculpture is not simply restricted to true representations of the human body. As a master of sculpture in the 19th century, August Rodin said, “In nature, nothing can compare to the human body. The human body, with its strength and its beauty, can give rise to unlimited imagery.” In the process of creation while at school, Hua drew the concept of the “lively spirit” from Xie He to fully grasp the key to sculpture. Hua believed that if a work needs to express a “vivid” image, it first needs “charm”. If the “charm” of a piece is necessary, the whole work should be imbued with “spirit.” In this regard, a work may still preserve vivid lines and shapes out of a complicated structure and constitute the continuity and variation of its spirit. This step is particularly important if an artist is trying to show the spirit of his character. Like the rhythm in poetry, the spirit of a piece touches people’s hearts and completes a whole work.

Female Body No. 3 is a woman lowering her head in contemplation. To show the quietness and stillness of his character, the artist placed her hands at the back of her head with the legs slightly separate, which forms into two opposite triangles resembling a giant “8”. Her legs are the powerful support for her torso, and her hands gently touch her head so as to suggest that she is in a state of contemplation. The rest of her body then involuntarily reflects such a position. This work is reminiscent of Michelangelo’s work collected in the Louvre or Rodin’s famous Bronze Age completed in his early years. Furthermore, it represents that Hua had a full understanding of Western classic work. His well-known Contemplation (standing) of 1943 earned him his first golden medal of the Spring Salon. He was praised by Xu Beihong as “the reincarnation of Rodin,” and his Female Nude No.3 can be seen as a female version of Contemplation.

Shaping Chinese Style with the “Original Form of the Object”

In his long years of studying in France, Hua strove to grasp the context and skill of early Western sculpture. Later, he devoted himself to creating his own artistic style. As he described, “In terms of the form of my artistic creation…I focused on the simplicity of the forms during my later phase. I searched for the ‘original form of the object’ and gradually developed my own style.” Xie He’s “original form of the object” was one of the keys to painting. Yet Hua applied it to sculpture, emphasizing the Chinese ethnicity and characteristics in his creation. Although the character wears no clothes, Female Body No. 3  is clearly the body of an Eastern woman, shown especially in her plump hips and thighs as well as her relatively slim waist, different from Western sculptures. Hua had personal contact with the sculptures in the Tang dynasty, understanding the kind of artistic state that the sage of painting, Wu Daozi, was known for: “hair seen from the flesh, the force running over the canvas” (Famous Paintings through History). Trained by Western theories, Hua presented Eastern classic beauty with realistic sculptures. Female Body No. 3 emphasizes not only the strong muscles or the shape of body but also the natural presentation of human body. French sculptor Aristide Maillol was also famous for showing the classic beauty of female sculptures. On artistic creation, the East and the West art masters complement each other.

Hua began teaching at China Central Academy of Fine Arts when returning to China in 1948. He also continued sculpting and research throughout China. Over his life, Hua sought neither fame nor fortune. The few copies of his work were mainly collected by art schools or public museums. Finding his work in the market is even rarer. As a result, Female Body No.3presents a rare opportunity in the world of art collection.