Lot 1030
  • 1030

WU GUANZHONG | Sunshine after snow in the mountain village I

7,000,000 - 15,000,000 HKD
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  • Wu Guanzhong
  • Sunshine after snow in the mountain village I
  • signed in Chinese and dated 1964; titled and signed in Chinese on the reverse
  • oil on board
  • 61.2 by 46 cm; 24 by 18 ⅛ in. 


Important Private Asian Collection


Art of Wu Guanzhong 60s – 90s, China Three Gorges Publishing House, Beijing, 1996, plate 56, p. 77
Wu Keyu, ed., World Famous Painter: Wu Guanzhong, Hebei Education Publishing House, Shijiazhuang, 2006, p. 202
Shui Tianzhong & Wang Hua ed., The Complete Works of Wu Guanzhong Vol. II, Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, Changsha, 2007, p. 150


The work is overall in very good condition. As in its original condition, there are the artist's pinholes along the four borders of the work. Examination under UV light reveals two very minor signs of retouching at the top border.
"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

"I hope that painters will continue to devote themselves to painting nature, and to respect the value of illusion in painting nature. Nature is the only place where one can experience such ever-changing illusions; faced with a photograph that is already fixed, one’s feelings have less space to explore."
Excerpt from Sunshine after snow in the mountain village I,
Cultivation and Dedication — Donated Works of Wu Guanzhong, National Art Museum of China

In 1946, after finishing first in the nation on a qualifying exam, Wu Guanzhong travelled to France as part of the first group of Chinese artists to be sent abroad to study by the Ministry of Education. After his three-year scholarship ended, Wu resolved to return to China, where he devoted himself to practicing and promoting a Chinese style of oil painting. Wu combined the traditions of Eastern and Western painting, and in his work, the blending of realism (xieshi) and freehand (xieyi) styles are evident, expressing the essence of modern Chinese culture. In this way, he brought global recognition to the distinctive Chinese artistic temperament. In 1991, Wu was made an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture, and in 1992, his works were exhibited at the British Museum, which honoured him as the world’s foremost living artist. In 2002, Wu was admitted to French Academy of Fine Arts as China’s greatest artist, a signature achievement in the history of Chinese modern painting.In his later years, Wu Guanzhong generously donated his paintings to various major domestic and international museums. In 2009, the National Art Museum of China, Shanghai Art Museum, and National Gallery Singapore jointly held a grand exhibition of more than one hundred oil and ink paintings that the artist had donated to the three institutions. These works comprehensively covered Wu’s artistic career, spanning more than seven decades. Since Wu lived through the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), few of his early works survived. Many of his paintings from France and afterwards were destroyed, and at present, there are only a dozen or so rare pre-1966 Wu Guanzhong oil paintings in the collections of public museums. Sunshine after snow in the mountain village I (Lot 1030), featured in our evening auction, was completed in 1964. In addition to being an extremely rare 1960s Wu Guanzhong oil painting, this work is also part of a series with Sunshine after snow in the mountain village II, which is in the collection of the National Art Museum of China. This is the first time that Sunshine after snow in the mountain village I has appeared on the auction market, and its tremendous cultural and scholarly value make this auction an extraordinary opportunity for collectors.

Wu Guanzhong travelled throughout China’s famous mountains, forests, and rivers, and although he loved to paint from nature, he did not restrict himself to realism in his depictions. He did not simply take his easel outside and paint what he saw. Instead, he continuously sought original compositions within the myriad variations of his environments. After thoroughly observing a natural environment, he relied on his subjectivity to formulate a composition, preserving or omitting various elements of the scenery in order to create a vivid and original tableau. In his own words: “Time changes space: snowy mountains, windstorms, tall trees, and wildflowers are moved by time, creating extraordinary scenes within the illusions I perceive”. The two paintings’ compositions are similar. The museum-collected piece, Sunshine after snow in the mountain village II, is square, expressing the vast and expansive scenery of northern China, whereas this canvas, Sunshine after snow in the mountain village I, features a vertical composition, harkening to the vertical scroll landscapes of traditional Chinese painting. Other slight differences between the compositions are evident: in one, the beautiful mountain village is quite regular in its arrangement, whereas in the other, the village structures are more scattered and uneven. These differences are characteristic of Wu Guanzhong’s signature technique of rearranging beautiful scenes to create original picture planes. The same mountains, fields, and villages, portrayed at different times, produce different experiences and emotions. Therein lies the difference between a fixed photograph and a painted scene, for Wu sought out and highlighted specific creative elements within his scenes, letting the viewer experience the emotions that he poured into his paintings.

Wu Guanzhong draws on the Western technique of using swaths of colour to portray mountainous features with a three-dimensional structure. At the same time, he retains characteristically Eastern lines, which is extremely difficult to do with oil paints. In addition to using a fine brush to apply paint directly to the canvas, Wu would also use the handle of the brush to scrape lines into the oil paint, expressing a sense of movement. He scraped into a thick layer of oil paint and then used a new brush to add more droplets of pigment in order to create the branches and trunks of the trees in the foreground, creating a lively and exquisite effect. Wu’s meticulous brushwork combined Western oil painting with the dispersed perspective of the “three distances” method of traditional Chinese landscape painting. In Sunshine after snow in the mountain village I, the scenery is simultaneously depicted from flat, upwards, and downwards perspectives, casting off the limitations of space and time in order to lead the viewer’s line of sight into limitless space. In this way, the painting expresses the perspective and creativity of Chinese landscape art while also embodying the Taoist concept of the myriad natural phenomena, allowing the viewer to leisurely wander through the world of the artist’s creation.