Excerpt from Memoirs of Guan Liang, Chapter 6
In comparison with Lady with a Fan, After Bath (Lot 1040) more strongly manifests Guan Liang’s iconic treatment of the human form. It is also the largest nude female oil painting by Guan Liang offered in auction. After Bath, completed in 1963, was considered daring and avant-garde for the times, in both subject and style. The artist created more than one painting with this composition, revealing his special interest and fondness for it. The painting did not comply with the style of Soviet Realism that was dominant in China in the 1950s and 60s. Its rendering of the human form is warped and one-dimensional, combined with a beautifully supple and bold pink colour tone. With the lady’s back facing the viewer, and the body language expressed by her posture while brushing her hair, head slightly turned, the image of the woman clearly echoes the classic renderings of bathing women by the Impressionist masters Edgar Degas and Auguste Renoir. This painting is yet another testament to Guan Liang’s deep study of Western art. Departing from the techniques employed in Lady with a Fan, After Bath no longer relies on light and shadow to create volume, but rather uses ink lines to trace out the woman’s figure, which is filled in with flat colour in a style that more closely resembles Guan Liang’s ink-and-colour techniques. In this way, one can see how the artist has masterfully united the techniques of oil painting and traditional Chinese painting.
Pink colour tones are another important characteristic of Guan Liang’s work, as well as a sign of his arrival at complete artistic maturity. This ultimate style combines the Fauvist’s vigorous and unrestrained philosophy of colour with the atmosphere of Beijing opera, including the dramatic aura of the stage and the mood of powder and makeup. The artist’s pink tones are soft and full, standing stylistically in between the intense colour of the Fauvists and Chinese calligraphy’s simple and elegant ink. At the same time, it reflects the artist’s own open and gentle temperament. Within the same generation of Chinese oil painters, Sanyu was also skilled at using pinks. If Sanyu’s pinks bring forth an air of intoxicating romanticism and nobility, then the pinks in After Bath carry with them a sense of a steadfast innocence and purity, as well as a magnanimity that is all-capacious, containing the entire theatre of mankind In this way, the painting fully showcases the classical language of a generation’s master.
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