WU GUANZHONG 吳冠中 | THE LION GROVE GARDEN 獅子林
Important Wu Guanzhong Works From The Collection Of Chu Teh-Chun
WU GUANZHONG (1919-2010)
THE LION GROVE GARDEN
ink and colour on paper, framed
with two seals of the artist
69.5 x 94.2 cm 27⅜ x 37⅛ in.
69.5 x 94.2 cm 27⅜x 37⅛in.
Generally in good condition. For detailed condition photos and further inquiries, please contact us at email@example.com
"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.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
Artists, issue No. 30, Artists Publishing House, Hong Kong, February 1983, p.8
Travelogue of a Painter - Wu Guanzhong, Shanghai Literature and Arts Publishing House, October 1984, p.74
Wu Guanzhong Huaji, Tianjin People's Fine Arts Publishing House, January 1985, pl.26
Selected Works of Wu Guanzhong, Sichuan Fine Arts Publishing House and Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1990, p.102
〈天南地北畫人行腳叢書 — 吳冠中〉（上海文藝出版社，一九八四年十月），頁74
Important Wu Guanzhong Works from the Collection of Chu Teh-Chun
The celebrated friendship between the two iconic artists, Wu Guanzhong and Chu Teh-Chun, began in 1936. At the age of seventeen, Wu met Chu, who was a year younger, at a military camp. After Chu invited him to his college, the National Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou, Wu was mesmerised by what he saw, and decided to switch his studies from engineering to arts. This momentous encounter prompted Wu to embark on an artistic journey which spanned a lifetime.
After that, they studied and painted side by side. As history unfolded, the pair faced the challenges of wartime chaos while relocating from Hangzhou to Chongqing and later Nanjing. They shared the vivid merriment and bitterness of life, working towards the same goal to study in Paris. Shortly after Wu’s graduation in 1947, he was awarded a scholarship to study in Paris. Chu finally arrived in France eight years later, only to find his dear friend had already returned to China. For the next thirty years, they were separated from each other and lost touch.
The long-awaited reunion with Chu Teh-Chun was in the 1980s, which, according to Wu’s autobiography, was extraordinarily heartwarming. In his eyes, Chu’s paintings, albeit presented in an utterly different style, still reflected the same artistic notions since his school days. Rekindled by mutual appreciation and inspiration, their bond was stronger than ever, and they continued to support each other, often meeting in China and Europe. In 2010, Wu made his final appearance at Chu Teh-Chun’s exhibition opening in Beijing, where he paid tribute to his best friend with a poem, “Striving assiduously for 90 Years. Your heart, immersed in the sea of art; Your luminance, brightens up the entire universe.” Through the brightest days and darkest nights, their admiration and respect for each other lasted a lifetime.
The following paintings are from Chu Teh-Chun’s personal collection. They were gifts or works exchanged between the pair throughout the years. Chongqing, the Mountain City was the artist’s first panoramic depiction of his recurring theme of the city, Primitive Woods was the highlight of Wu’s first exhibition in Paris, while The Lion Grove Garden, and Lotus Pond are imbued with the cultural connection to their homeland. Emblematic of the enduring friendship they shared, they are also the epitome of Wu’s artistic achievement.
The Lion Grove Garden
“This small garden is abundantly filled with stones of various shapes. If no meanings are embedded in these stones, they would simply be vast chunks of weights. However, each stone does have their distinctive traits. They could be in square or circles, concave or convex, or in forms that resemble lions, tigers, bears, leopards, or human. It is up to our imaginations to broaden our vision.”
One of the four famous gardens of Suzhou, the Lion Grove Garden was built during the Yuan dynasty as part of the Bodhi Orthodox Monastery, and gained fame thanks to Lion Grove, a masterpiece painted by Yuan master Ni Zan. Privately owned since the mid-Ming dynasty onward, it underwent a major renovation during the Republican period, giving the garden its current appearance.
In spring 1980, Wu took his students of the Central Academy of Fine Arts on a sketching trip in Suzhou, during which he made a series of sketches of the various gardens, such as the Humble Administrator’s Garden and the Lingering Garden. The Lion Grove Garden was created based on a sketch during this trip. The work features a closeup of the labyrinth of stones, with ancient trees and a pavilion hidden among them. A stone bridge has been squeezed into the lower portion of the work, sparing space to showcase the abstract beauty of the stones. The lines writhe and wander across the paper, forming circuitous curves and abrupt turns in various intensity. Resembling abstract sculpture, dots and blocks of colour in various saturation scatter across the painting to exude a buoyant dynamism and show the colours of rippling water streaming through stones of varying depth when illuminated by sunlight.
Wu used mere dots and lines to capture the formal beauty of the stones, which was one of the early representations of the Lion Grove Garden in his oeuvre. Later, he would repaint this subject, adding halls, pavilions, fish, and duckweed, strengthening the relationships between the image and subject, which demonstrates the artist’s endless exploration for artistic representations.
Sketch of the Lion Grove Garden, illustrated in The Selected Sketches of Wu Guanzhong, Sichuan People’s Publishing House, 1983, pl.23
The Lion Grove Garden, 1987, 83.3 x 152.2 cm, sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, Fine Chinese Paintings, April 2011, Lot 1171
Rain or Shine: My Friendship with Chu Teh-Chun
My friendship with Teh-Chun began in a military training camp. In the summer of 1935, Chiang Kai-shek imposed a three-month military training on all high school and university students. Teh-Chun, student of the National Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou, and I, an engineering student of the Zhejiang Industrial School Affiliated to Zhejiang University, were assigned to the same squad at the camp in Hangzhou. With his basketball player-like height of a Northerner, Teh-Chun was made file leader to stand at the back, while I, as a short southern fellow, was picked to bring up the rear. Throughout the three months, we trained side by side.
One Sunday, Teh-Chun invited me to visit his school. As I set foot in an art school for the first time, I feasted my eyes on the dazzling sketches, watercolours and oil paintings. I fell in love instantly and forgot about everything else. At that time, I had never seen any art exhibition. The National Academy of Fine Arts had never organised exhibitions nor presented their artworks in the city. It was an ivory tower, which was ironic.
Impulsive as a wild horse, I devoted myself to my new love, ignoring my father’s disapproval, and regardless of career prospects, I abandoned my engineering studies and enrolled to study at National Academy of Art all over again. Only Teh-Chun was by my side to support me. He brushed up my drawing and prepared me for the entrance exam. He even asked Professor Liu Kaiqu (from his hometown) to take special note of my exam paper, but Professor Liu advised him not to encourage anyone to take up art study, especially at the time I was already studying in a prestigious high school.
Eventually, I was admitted to the National Academy of Art in Hangzhou, and was a year behind Teh-Chun. He became my little teacher, and we would always talk about school each day. Lin Fengmian, Wu Dayu, Cai Weilian, and Pan Tianshou were the teachers we admired the most. The two of us were inseparable. Nearly every afternoon, we would paint watercolour landscapes on the bank of West Lake. Our drawing themes and styles were very similar, and this was when our earliest aesthetic taste was cultivated. At night, we would secretly practice Chinese traditional paintings by imitating works by Shitao and Bada Shanren, and by drawing plum blossoms, orchids, bamboo, and chrysanthemums. Teh-Chun’s skills in painting and calligraphy were more accomplished than mine.
At that time, oil painting classes were only offered at degree level. Teh-Chun could not resist waiting and tried out oil painting on his own. The materials were expensive, and as white colour was often used, he created his own substitute by mixing zinc oxide and oil. One time, Teh-Chun offered me his paints. He told me that the white colour was in an old face cream jar and then left for the market. When he returned, he remarked on the strong fragrance in the room. It turned out that I had mixed up the jars, using actual face cream instead of the white oil acrylic. No wonder they were so difficult to work with! All because of my poor sense of smell - I often cannot tell scents apart.
In the autumn and winter of 1937, the advancement of the Japanese army forced the National Academy of Art to move inland. In the process of relocation, I unexpectedly lost all my money for the semester and was broke. Teh-Chun had to share his savings with me. From classmates, we became brothers in hardship. When we arrived in Guixi, Jiangxi, most students found shelter in a Catholic church. To save money, we did not join them. Instead, we would huddle by a doorway, and the two of us with Liu Baosen (Yan Han) would make thin rice porridge. We were poor, but we did not stop painting sketches. In 1941, Teh-Chun graduated in Qingmuguan, Sichuan, and he was invited to teach at our alma mater because of his excellent coursework.
After I graduated in 1942, I became a teaching assistant in the Architectural Department of Chongqing University. Separated by the Jialing River, we were no longer as physically close as before, but two things kept us together. Firstly, it was our continuous search for oil painting materials. It was a time of scarce resources and we had to seek other’s help to obtain painting supplies from Shanghai. Secondly, we studied French, both hoping to follow in the footsteps of our teachers who had studied in France. In 1946, I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to pursue my studies in Paris. Teh-Chun said that I would fulfill this dream for the both of us.
In 1947, I went to Paris, and he eventually left for Taiwan with his work unit, and from then on, we lost touch. In 1955, he finally moved from Taiwan to Paris. When he arrived in France, he tried to find me, but by that point I had already returned to China. It felt as if fate had ordained that we were never to meet again.
From the 1950s to 1980, communications between Beijing and Paris was practically impossible between individuals. In about 1979, Teh-Chun sent a catalogue of his artworks, which was passed to me indirectly. It was published under the pocket guidebook series of French museums, and all the works inside were abstract works completed after the 1960s. Once I opened the book and saw those paintings, I felt as if I were seeing my old friend again. We had never painted abstract works in China, nor had I in France. The early abstract works that Teh-Chun created after his arrival in France felt incredibly familiar. The paintings looked different, but the heart of the creator had not changed.
In 1981, Zhan Jianjun, Liu Huanzhang, and I visited West Africa as part of a delegation of Chinese artists. On our way home, we stopped by Paris. While in Mali, we notified the Chinese embassy in France of our arrival and asked them to inform Chu Teh-Chun. At midnight, our flight finally landed. By that time, Teh-Chun and Dong Ningchuan, an attaché at the embassy and a classmate of mine when I studied abroad, had already been waiting for us at the airport for two hours. Teh-Chun invited me to stay in his home, but a staff of the embassy did not welcome the idea. Fortunately, Dong Ningchuan allowed me to stay with Teh-Chun. I later learnt that, as a rule, members of such delegations were never permitted to stay in the homes of friends while abroad. Dong Ningchuan could have got into trouble as I did receive a warning when I returned.
That night, we agreed that Teh-Chun and I would meet Zhan Jianjun and the others at the hotel to go to the Louvre together the next day. In the morning, Teh-Chun and his family prepared lots of food and drinks, as we planned to spend the entire day there – it was a thoughtful gesture to save time and money. But when Teh-Chun and I arrived at the hotel, Zhan Jianjun and Liu Huanzhang were waiting impatiently at the entrance, and Liu had an agitated look on his face. But when they saw what Teh-Chun had prepared, their annoyance evaporated.
During our early years in Hangzhou, Teh-Chun and I used to peruse artbooks every day and rate artworks like armchair critics. Today, when we got to see the actual works of the masters at the Louvre we had known so well back then, our opinions are still largely in agreement. I had not been to Paris for 30 years, and Teh-Chun accompanied me to visit the museums and galleries. In my view, the artistic mainstream in the old Paris, even after three decades, had not undergone earth-shattering changes. However, I was unfamiliar with many of the new rising artists and their works, so I patiently listened to Teh-Chun’s explanations. It felt like he was my little teacher back in school again…
When I was in purgatory in China, I often thought of Teh-Chun and wondered if he had undergone any hardship in France. However, when we were finally able to see each other, we buried the past sufferings deep in our hearts and covered the heaviness with a thick layer of art.
In spring 1989, Seibu department store invited me to Paris to sketch the city. Accepting the offer, I stayed in Paris with my wife for a month, and spent much time with Teh-Chun. I will never forget visiting Vincent van Gogh’s grave with Xiong Bingming and his wife, or Teh-Chun and his wife taking us to see Claude Monet’s home in Giverny. These two places had not been open to the public when I was a student, and I had always regretted not being able to visit. Once I got there, I felt as if I were touching the hearts of these departed artists.
When Teh-Chun first visited Beijing, I had already moved out of Huixian Hall, and he could never see the narrow and modest Beijing alley I resided in for the past thirty years. I accompanied him and his friends to visit the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City and the Yungang Grottoes…
From 1993 to 1994, during my exhibition at Musée Cernuschi of Paris, I stayed in Paris for a while with my family and met Teh-Chun frequently. He told me that a few members of the French Academy would like to nominate him as a candidate to join the prestigious French Academy of Fine Arts. It would be a fierce competition with other notable painters, and it had always been particularly challenging for foreigners. I encouraged him to try as it would have been a huge honour if a Chinese artist was elected. In 1997, Teh-Chun initiated an illustrious new era in the history of Sino-French artistic exchange when he was inducted into the Academy.
At the opening ceremony of Teh-Chun’s exhibition at the National Art Museum of China in 1998, I mentioned the poetic scene when an old man returned to his hometown after so many years, with his native accent remaining the same. This accent refers not only to his speech but also his work, form, colour, rhythm, and affection, all particularly touching for those appreciating from his homeland. I have published numerous articles about his art, so I would not repeat here. Instead, I would like to listen what other art critics have to say. Sixty-five years have gone by, from young art fanatics by the West Lake to old friends in gray hair, we shall always cherish the moments we had. Through difficulties and hardship, through rain or snow, we would always keep each other close to our hearts.
(This is a slightly abridged version)