Lot 1012
  • 1012

Wu Dayu

3,000,000 - 5,000,000 HKD
7,240,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Wu Dayu
  • Flourishing
  • oil on canvas
  • 46.7 by 34.2 cm.;   18 3/8  by 13 1/2  in.


Private Asian Collection


Taipei, National Museum of History, Exhibition of Wu Dayu Paintings, 9 March - 8 April 2001, p. 94


Wu Dayu, Lin & Keng Gallery Inc., Taipei, 1996, pp. 30-31
Shanghai Oil & Sculpture Academy - Wu Dayu, Shanghai Education Press, Shanghai, 2003, p. 53
Wu Dayu, Lin & Keng Gallery Inc., Taipei, 2006, p. 137

Catalogue Note

Co-Founder of Hangzhou School of Fine Arts

Flourishing, a classic from Wu Dayu’s  “Color Rhymes” series

In 1922, Wu Dayu left China for Paris, making him one of the earliest expats – along with Xu Beihong and Sanyu – to study abroad in France. After returning to China, the artist and Lin Fengmian, among others, established the Hangzhou School of Fine Arts. Famous artists such as Zao Wou-Ki, Chu Teh-Chun, and Wu Guanzhong were all students of Wu Dayu, who, at that time, was not only the brillantly talented artist, but was also the head of the Western Painting department. His early works, tending towards Romanticism, were forever lost in the ravages of war and societal upheaval. Sublimated by wisdom accumulated over a lifetime and honed artistic philosophy, Wu’s paintings after the 1970s possess the characteristics of Abstract Expressionism, combined with Fauvism and Cubism, both of which he studied extensively in his earlier years. This gave rise to a strong and distinct personal style, and Wu became part of the first wave of Chinese oil painters to stride towards Abstract Expressionism. Considered one of the finest paintings from his “Color Rhymes” series, Wu’s Flourishing (Lot 1012). Extracts from concrete still lifes, moving into a realm of abstract beauty. The composition is complex and rigorous while possessing momentum; the use of color is bright and splendid, communicating an optimistic energy. In these ways, the artist communicates to the viewer his peaceful and content inner world.

Shixiang: The Dynamism Derived From Still Lifes and Abstract Expressionism

Wu’s abstract paintings are often an extraction and expression of the beauty that lies in the composition and color of real scenery. The “Color Rhymes” series, for example, take their inspiration from the vitality and exuberant colors of flowers and plants. Within the abstract image of Flourishing, the viewer can faintly make out a vase of flowers in full bloom, yet the purpose of the painting is not to “reproduce” the objective beauty of the flowers, but to “represent” the experience that comes from observing the vase’s superficial appearance, arriving at its inner beauty. As the artist once said, “Deferring to form and structure does not serve the purpose of grasping an object’s image. Beauty exists in the space between the image itself and the image as it appears in the heart.” The main idea of Flourishing, then, lies exactly in the abstract concept of “flourishing,” and thus, the form of the flowers and vase are both flooded by radiant light and brilliant colors, a scene which can be aptly described with Wu’s poetic phrase of “flying light and rhyming colors.” And so, Wu’s works, rousing the viewer’s emotions through the expression of his inner state, converge with the principles of Western Abstract Expressionism.

A conceptual partner to “flying light, rhyming colors” is shixiang, or “manner and appearance.” Artist Wu Guangzhong, a student of Wu’s in the 1940s, writes in a letter, “What reveals itself before one’s eyes is limited to the vague and indistinct ‘manner and appearance.’ The beauty of this ‘manner and appearance’ is clear as crystal, and carries with it a weight that comes not from its form, and is more abstract than any constructed feature. It is a melody transmitted before the eyes, rippling with a silent grace; it is a gorgeous dance whose movements are made in stillness; it is the most beautiful prose written without words.” Light that flies, colors that rhyme – these all emphasize the dynamism of an image. In Flourishing, for example, the flowers’ flourishing comes from their state of full bloom, yet this state is expressed not only through brilliant colors, but also through a dynamism that fully captures their pulsing vitality. The artist achieves this through several ways: smudges of paint left by the brush are retained in such a way that blocks of color have traces of the application and re-application of color; in the background of the painting, a window is presented from a side view, the diagonal line of its frame creating a flow of energy from the top left to the lower right; light shines in from the window, creating a flow of light from the top right to the lower left, and framing the flowers and vase in a silhouette, with shadows appearing on the surface of and below the vase. Together, the energy created by the intersecting lines and the light presents this abstract representation of a still life with a natural flow of movement.

Spiritual Fullness That Comes From Within

Wu’s life was full of trial and hardship, but these experiences did not discourage nor diminish his strength of character. In fact, they led to the infusion of his inner spirit into his works that was characteristic of his later years. Former President of the Central Academy of Art, Jin Shangyi, once said in praise of Wu, “In his later years, equipped with excellent training and self-cultivation, as well as his robust passion, Wu’s creations exhibited remarkable naturalness. Although his circumstances were harsh, there was no bitterness in his works; they were uplifting and joyful, a testament to man’s spiritual strength.” One of the principles of Abstract Expressionism is to express subjective ideas, and the substance of these ideas hinges upon the artist himself. What makes Wu worthy of great admiration is the beauty and goodness that radiates from his paintings, despite his personal hardships. He once profoundly remarked, “Integrity is honed through the senses, and the senses are honed through integrity.” These are words that were born from his life and his life’s work. During the creation of Flourishing, Wu was not only transformed by the war, but was also a victim of the social movements in the 50s and 60s. Amid the cruelties dealt to him in life, the artist remained steadfast in his appreciation of beauty and his passion for creation. With noble integrity, Wu extracted the beauty of the world, and in turn used that beauty as nourishment for his integrity. Something as ordinary as a vase of flowers before a window could, under his brush, metamorphose into a resplendent, charming abstract painting. In this way, the artist used the “liberation of color and form” that he learned from the West to find – as is said in the East – “a home for the heart and soul.”