Lot 1037
  • 1037

Wu Guanzhong

8,000,000 - 12,000,000 HKD
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  • Wu Guanzhong
  • Ah Fu, A Foreigner
  • signed in Chinese and dated 94
  • oil on canvas


Important Private Asian Collection


Shui Tianzhong & Wang Hua, The Complete Works of Wu Guanzhong Vol.IV, Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, Changhsa, 2007, p. 108
Wu Guanzhong, Hua Yan, Wenhui Press, Shanghai, 2010, p. 207
Wu Guanzhong, Wu Guanzhong: Great Master of Art in the World, Culture and Art Publishing House, 2010, p. 123


This work is in overall very good condition. There is no apparent inpainting under UV light examination.
"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

The Humour and Profundity of a Master

Wu Guanzhong, A Fu, a Foreigner

Wu Guanzhong devoted himself to painting the human figure during his studies in China and France, as well as in the early years of his return to China. Then, during the Cultural Revolution period, he destroyed all of his earlier works in order to avoid ideological persecution and resolutely restricted himself to painting landscapes. In the 1990s, when the atmosphere in the art world in mainland China had become more relaxed, Wu was able to pick up where he had left off. He used art to challenge himself in what has been called his “sunset consideration of the human figure”: a period in which he demonstrated a resurgent creativity. He painted A Fu, a Foreigner (Lot 1037) during a 1994 trip to Indonesia, and once mentioned the painting in his prose collection Hua Yan:

“In Indonesia I once saw a woman of incomparable size. She possessed the typical, beautiful sense of quantity that Maillol and Picasso had pursued, and I felt that she was an excellent subject for expressing that the aesthetic of quantity, so I painted her portrait in oils when I returned. My friends were all astounded when they saw the large woman in the painting. But when I told them that I had painted a foreign A Fu, they immediately returned to a normal state. Fat A Fu of Wuxi has been enjoyed by generations of Chinese people, and foreigners like her too”.

In the above quotation, Wu Guanzhong mentions the “sense of quantity” pursued by Western modern masters, as well as “Fat A Fu”, a persona in Chinese traditional arts. These two key concepts to understanding this painting. In A Fu, a Foreigner, a distorted, exaggerated human figure occupies the centre of the tableau. First-hand observation provided the prototype for this figure, and the artistic image sprang from a traditional cultural symbol of the pursuit of good fortune, reunion, and fullness, which the artist adapted into the modern aesthetic of quantity. The scenery in the painting comprises three equally distributed swaths of colour that represent the sky, sea, and beach; this background possesses the characteristics of geometric abstraction. The pattern on the woman’s bathing suit also recalls the colour dots of Wu Guanzhong’s abstract compositions.

The human image in A Fu, a Foreigner, is pleasant and fun, a rare expression of the artist’s sense of humour. The distortion of the image is a highly modern touch that can also be traced to ancient Chinese painting. Harmony, painted by Zhu Jianshen (Ming Xianzong) the year he ascended to the throne of the Ming Dynasty to become the Chenghua Emperor, makes reference to the parable of “Three Men share a Laugh at Tiger Creek”, which refers to a chance meeting between the poet Tao Yuanming, the Daoist priest Lu Xiujing, and the Buddhist monk Hui Yuan. The parable is a symbol of harmonious coexistence between the three doctrines of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism. In The Origins of Wu Guanzhong’s Paintings, published in 2008, the artist discusses A Fu, a Foreigner at greater length, dissecting his own use of exaggeration to create a sense of mass.

Wu Guanzhong often produced multiple versions of painting compositions that he was fond of, and he used these versions to adjust details and explore different expressive effects. After painting A Fu, a Foreigner, the artist also painted A Spring (1995), Shore (2002), and The Pink Whirlwind (2008), forming a series. The Pink Whirlwind has been collected by the National Art Museum of China, demonstrating the artist’s satisfaction with this artwork, as well as the art world’s recognition of this series.