SANYU 常玉 | FLEURS DANS UN POT BLEU ET BLANC 青花盆與菊
PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE ASIAN COLLECTION
1895 - 1966
FLEURS DANS UN POT BLEU ET BLANC
oil on masonite
signed in Chinese and French
executed in 1950s
91 by 62 cm; 35 ⅞ by 24 ⅜ in.
1895 - 1966
91 by 62 cm; 35 ⅞ by 24 ⅜ in.
The painting surface has been cleaned, and the work is overall in good condition.
Examination under UV light reveals very minor signs of retouching upon the white chrysanthemums, the flower pot and the extreme edges.
Conservation report is available upon request.
"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."
Important Works by Sanyu, Paris Period, Dimensions Art Center, Taipei, 1992, p. 42-43
Rita Wong, ed., Sanyu Catalogue Raisonné: Oil Paintings, Yageo Foundation and Lin & Keng Art Publications, Taipei, 2001, plate 148, p. 262
Pauline Kao, ed., In Search of a Homeland – The Art of San Yu, National Museum of History, Taipei, 2001, plate 97, p. 144
Rita Wong, ed., Sanyu Catalogue Raisonné: Oil Paintings Volume II, The Li Ching Cultural and Educational Foundation, Taipei, 2011, plate 148, p. 133
Wang Chia-Chi, ed., Sanyu: A Pioneering Avant-Garde in Chinese Modernist Art, Tina Keng Gallery, Taipei, 2013, p. 219
Sanyu: In a Reverie of Black, White, and Pink, Lin & Lin Gallery, Taipei, 2018, p. 225, 286
Taipei, Dimensions Art Center, Sanyu, 18 - 30 April 1992
Taipei, National Museum of History, In Search of a Homeland – The Art of San Yu, 13 October – 2 December 2001
Noble Blossoms in a Starry Night – Sanyu’s Fleurs dans un pot bleu et blanc
“I see his dreams in his potted flowers”
Xiong Bingming, excerpt from Potted Flowers – A Discussion of Sanyu’s Paintings
In the decades that Sanyu lived in France, there were periods when the artist reveled in the prosperity and beauty of Paris, and other times when the alienation and hardship of living weighed heavily on his spirit. Throughout his life, he remained true to himself by carving out a unique path and managing to preserve the joyful spiritual domain of artistic freedom. Its understated style is well known that Sanyu had loved painting flowers, and his early works were often elegant, beautiful and restrained, as if he were recounting a romantic dream. During his peak years, as the artist matured, the flowers in his paintings grew more vibrant, expressed in powerful brushstrokes, as if asserting Sanyu’s clear intention to return to his Eastern cultural origins. Thus, he created his brilliant and distinctive paintings of potted plants.
Sanyu created more than 130 flower paintings throughout his career, according to the Sanyu Catalogue Raisonné: Oil Paintings (Vol. I & II), with plum blossom, orchid, chrysanthemum and bamboo depicted most frequently. In particular, his chrysanthemum paintings compare in number with his world-famous female nudes. From 1930s to 1950s, under the fertile artistic soil cultivated by the artist, Sanyu’s chrysanthemums thrived and bloomed into the most enduring subject among his flower paintings. Fleurs dans un pot bleu et blanc (Lot 1015) stands as a masterpiece of this series. Among the current top ten auction records for the artist, six are paintings of flowers, of which four are devoted to the chrysanthemum. Out of these four, two were sold for more than HKD 100 million, a testament to the market’s keen interest in Sanyu’s oil paintings of flowers.
“At the time, he seemed to be painting in earnest. The pots and vases of the flowers in these paintings…were those of Song ceramics or Ming blue-and-white styles, emanating his longing for the motherland.”
Shiy De-Jinn, excerpt from Sanyu - An Old Chinese Painter Sunk in Paris His Whole Life
Among Sanyu’s oil paintings of flowers, typically arranged in slender glass vases or growing in round pots, only ten are found in elegant blue-and-white porcelain pots. This style of porcelain references the literati spirit and suggests the prominent place this work had in the artist’s heart. The Taipei National Museum of History holds three of his paintings featuring blue-and-white porcelain in the museum’s permanent collection, making Fleurs dans un pot bleu et blanc a treasure of great rarity – exceptionally so in the hands of a private collector. Around the time Sanyu painted Fleurs dans un pot bleu et blanc, the artist also completed four oil paintings using white chrysanthemums, all connected in form, artistic concept, and perhaps origin, as it is believed that the works were all drawn from the same chrysanthemum plant in real life. Among these, Pot de chrysanthèmes, which depicts the flowers in a rectangular-shaped pot without blue-and-white decorations, is currently in the Taipei National Museum of History’s permanent collection. By comparison, the approach of expression in Fleurs dans un pot bleu et blanc appears to be more delicate and emotionally affecting.
While the vast majority of Sanyu’s oil paintings of flowers feature a two-color background, another exceptional feature of Fleurs dans un pot bleu et blanc is that it is the only of Sanyu’s work that employs a bold, highly contrasting indigo and peach-pink as the background. This creates an effect that makes the white chrysanthemums sparkle like stars in the night sky. The glamorous peach-pink base brings to mind Chinese folk art traditions, on which Sanyu was well versed, and simultaneously imbues a surreal, abstract sensibility – together giving the painting a truly unique and rare charm.
“I think Sanyu was himself a potted plant, an Eastern potted plant gracing the Parisian garden.”
Wu Guanzhong, excerpt from About Sanyu
The chrysanthemum has long been an important symbol in traditional Chinese culture and aesthetics. The chrysanthemum blossoms in mid-autumn, a quality that is considered noble and distinguished, setting it apart from other flowers. Sanyu, who was well-versed in traditional Chinese literature since a young age, of course understood the high aesthetic value of chrysanthemum. He would return to this theme particularly during the 1940s and ’50s, frequently depicting chrysanthemums perhaps to seek encouragement and reassurance in the flower’s gentlemanly spirit. Fleurs dans un pot bleu et blanc is not just a still-life painting but represents the artist’s own inner reflections.
In Fleurs dans un pot bleu et blanc, the composition evokes a night-time atmosphere in which a sense of life abounds, revealing the rich inner world of the artist. Against the night sky, the plant is lush and thriving, a branch shaped like a deer antler stands tall within a shallow and narrow blue-and-white flowerpot, reflecting the artist’s uncompromising spirit. The crisp section of peach-pink color at the base forms a level interface of a desk’s corner, asserting an element of geometric abstractionism. The white chrysanthemums, like fireflies or stars in a night sky, are set off by a warm and passionate color. The image of the flowers and the inner world of the artist become one, and a beautiful view of a potted flower at night invites the viewer to explore Sanyu’s aesthetic of life itself.