Lot 1009
  • 1009

Wu Guanzhong

5,000,000 - 8,000,000 HKD
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  • Wu Guanzhong
  • Field Chrysanthemums
  • signed and dated 7493 in Chinese; signed, inscribed and titled in Chinese on the reverse
  • oil on board
Art Asia Hong Kong 93, Hong Kong label affixed to the reverse


Hong Kong, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Spirit of East- Wu Guanzhong, 18 - 22 November 1993
Acquired directly from the above by the present important private Asian collector


Singapore, Queen's Room in Empress Place Museum, Spirit of East- Wu Guanzhong, 17 - 19 September 1993, p. 25
Taipei, Howard Salon in Howard Plaza Hotel, Spirit of East- Wu Guanzhong, 23 - 25 October 1993, p. 25
Hong Kong, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Spirit of East- Wu Guanzhong, 18 - 22 November 1993, p. 25


Zhou Daguang, ed., Searching for the Understanding Mind- Selected Works of Wu Guanzhong in 1990s, Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1995, p. 89
Shui Tianzhong & Wang Hua, ed., The Complete Works of Wu Guanzhong Vol. 4, Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, Changsha, 2007, p. 260


The work is overall in good condition and is in its original condition. There is no sign of restoration under UV 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

Renewed Colour with a New Tone, Overflowing with Fragrance
In 1993, “Spirit of the East”, a major exhibition of the work of Wu Guanzhong, travelled to the Queen's Room of the Empress Palace Museum in Singapore, the Howard Salon in Taipei, and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The exhibition featured both oil and ink masterpieces, twenty-four paintings in total, which were created between the 1970s and the 1990s. One exceptional painting from this exhibition, Field Chrysanthemums (Lot 1009), was painted by Wu Guangzhong twice, in 1974 and 1993, demonstrating its particular importance to him. The title of this essay is a quotation from the artist's own appraisal of the painting from the catalogue of the “Spirit of the East” exhibition.
To Wu Guanzhong, flowering plants were more than subject material for paintings; they were a spiritual pillar. The artist often wrote about how flowers provided him with invigorating inspiration in different stages of his career by igniting his creativity. Rather than painting the solitary blossoms of potted plants, Wu Guanzhong painted flowers in wilderness. With no regard for chilly weather, he ventured out to capture the end of winter and the rebirth of spring. He braved the winds on his own with the broad earth and deep roots beneath his feet. In an era in which artists had to constantly build and consolidate their creative practices, Wu Guanzhong's flowers were still lifes, landscapes, and most of all, self-portraits. The beauty of flowers is natural beauty, human beauty, and above all, spiritual beauty. This is why viewers never tire of gazing at Wu Guanzhong's flower paintings, which seem to grow lovelier with time.
Wu Guanzhong extrapolated emotional connotations from the visual beauty of flowers, which he sublimated to a spiritual level. In 1971-72, during the Cultural Revolution, he was sent down to Li Village in Hebei province. Flowers provided him with a modicum of hope in that remote and undistinguished landscape. Although they were only a small spark of solace, they helped him retain his passion for art during this low point in his life. In 1973-74, Wu received permission to return to Beijing. Taking advantage of the slight relaxation of the political atmosphere, he was able to obtain studio space again, which led to a major period of creativity. He produced one brilliant and vivid oil painting after another. Field Chrysanthemums was one result of this creative renaissance in the artist's life. In 1988, he published Wu Guanzhong on the Forms of Painting, a book of his writings and poems, including an explication of this painting, Field Chrysanthemums.
Field Chrysanthemums has the typical characteristics of Wu Guanzhong's 1970s oil paintings. At the time, the artist had limited access to painting tools, so he had to make the most of whatever he had. His rich and vivid use of oil paint seems to peel back the layers of the scene to expose its essence, and his brushstrokes bring his subject to life and fill it with inspiration. The back of the painting still shows the artist's caption for the photo: “Former Residence of Commander-in-Chief Zhu, Wushilong, Ruijin”. These words, though brief, are a telling sign of the times. During the same period, Wu painted graceful still-lifes, including Lotus Flowers and Plum Blossoms, that reflected his persevering character and passion for life. Field Chrysanthemums, born along the way, is an ostensibly simple painting that in fact contains the spark of a powerful fire. After the tumultuous course of his art career, what else could we expect? Time passed quickly, and by the 1990s, Wu was an international master of great renown. He was invited to show his work around the world, and he became the first living artist to have a solo exhibition at the British Museum. Nonetheless, Wu never forgot about Field Chrysanthemums. It was one of the rare occasions in which the artist returned to a work to collaborate with his former self of nineteen years earlier in order to complete this era-bridging masterpiece. After the huge success of "Spirit of the East", the painting was purchased by a private collector, who also received a letter of authenticity from the artist himself, reprinted below. Both the painting and the letter have remained in perfect condition, and are now reappearing on the market after twenty-five years. In combination, they represent the painting, calligraphy, letters, prose, and poetry of the great artist, a highly precious and very rare integrated artwork from Wu Guanzhong's illustrious career.
On the oil painting Field Chrysanthemums
“During the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, I used oil paintings to paint from nature in the outdoors. I almost always painted on plywood, which was very difficult to come by at the time. Even relatively low-quality plywood was extremely valuable.
One corner of the plywood on which I made this painting, Field Chrysanthemums, was somewhat haggard, so I had used adhesive plaster to repair it before painting on it. It had no effect on the overall tableau, and once the painting was framed, the flaw was completely hidden. When I looked at this painting closely in 1993, I noticed that the style was overly subtle, so I decided to work on it further. I gave it a new tone, making it a work of collaboration between 1974 and 1993. Its creation spanned nineteen years, with a white signature from 1974 (scraped with a knife) and a red signature, in ink, from 1993, making it a very rare work from my creative career. My hope is that subsequent collectors will appreciate the specialness of this painting.
Wu Guanzhong 1993
Notes upon completing Field Chrysanthemums