Pioneers of Modern Chinese Painting

Launch Slideshow

With the influx of western culture, the artistic milieu in China witnessed a renaissance in western art movements in the early twentieth century. Many artists were inspired to pursue studies in France and Lin Fengmian, Xu Beihong, and Wu Guanzhong were revered as the most pioneering Western-trained artists. Respectively enthralled in various schools of art such as impressionism, abstract expressionism and realism, the three artists incorporated western techniques into traditional ink paintings when they came back to China, creating forms of artistic expression unprecedented to the local art circle. The artists were appreciated for propelling the transformation of traditional Chinese painting and their devotion in art education. Distinctive in style and substance, their works received important impetus and support from art enthusiasts. Click through to browse the highlighted works offered in the coming Spring Sale.

Fine Chinese Paintings

04 April  | Hong Kong


Pioneers of Modern Chinese Painting

  • Arnold Lee
    Wu Guanzhong, Pandas, Ink And Colour On Paper, Estimate HK$ 3,000,000-5,000,000.
     “ Pandas only come in black and white, they are pretty lazy. This is how I depict my pandas: they are fat, they have an open heart, their black and white colours are clearly delineated, and they live among stalks of bamboos. But I don’t paint pandas for the sake of the pandas. What I want is to juxtapose bold black grids embracing pudgy white grids, tossing and turning … Pandas inspire me to search for disarray and eternity.” – Wu Guanzhong

  • Arnold Lee
    Xu Beihong, Galloping Horse, Ink On Paper, 1951, Estimate HK$ 2,200,000-3,000,000.
    This painting was a gift from Xu Beihong to Li Rumian. During the Korean War, the painter suffered from bad health, finishing only a few works, although he tried his best to put ink on paper. This painting depicts a horse galloping in mid-air, as if it could traverse a thousand miles in a day. It is testament to Xu’s immense level of energy of that moment. Perhaps this was given to Li as a token of support during the time when China was standing on the opposite side of America on the Korean peninsula. After Li passed away, this painting remained in his family. During the Cultural Revolution, his widow stored this work at the Beijing Library, hoping to avoid the attacks of the Red Guards, which is the reason for the library’s stamp. When order was restored, library took stock and noticed the inscription, thus adding another stamp to “cancel” the original, returning the work to the Li family. The next generation of the Li family spread around in China, Europe and America. This painting was brought over to America in 1979. It was first released to the public in 1999.

  • Lin Fengmian, Residence by the Stream, Ink and Colour on Paper, Estimate HK$ 2,000,000-3,000,000.
    Although this work is not dated, looking at the style of the brushstrokes, signature and stamp, we can deduce it dates from the 1950s, comparable to Ladies in a Garden belonging to the Hong Kong Museum of Art. The treatment, especially the fine brushwork depicting every flower and plant, can only be traced to a short period during the painter’s career that never recurred afterward. The composition of this painting is rich and varied, with many characters appearing indoors, in the garden, by the brook and on a boat. We can easily discern different personalities and identities. Distant mountains, houses and forests are densely layered yet arranged in an orderly fashion. The immaculate care in the making of this painting is representative of the artist’s output of the early 1950s.

  • (Left) Lin Fengmian, Fishing Boats at the Dock, Ink And Colour on Paper, Estimate HK$ 300,000-400,000. (Right) Lin Fengmian, Residence Perching on Cliff, Ink And Colour on Paper, Estimate HK$ 260,000-350,000.
    These two works belonged to the founder of the Asia Society, Mr and Mrs John D.Rockefeller 3rd. They were originally gifts from Mr and Mrs Henry Luce, the founder of Time and Life magazines. Luce (1898–1967) was a staunch supporter of the Nationalist government during the Second World War, even visiting China in May 1941, meeting with Chiang Kai-shek in Chongqing. It is possible these paintings were acquired during that trip. The style of the painting is similar to other works of the artist during the 1930s and ’40s, when he first moved to the banks by Jialing River.

  • Wu Guanzhong, Scenery of Zhangjiajie, Ink and Colour on Paper, 1979, Estimate HK$ 6,000,000-9,000,000.
    During the autumn of 1979, Wu Guanzhong travelled to Changsha to create his large oil painting Shaoshan. Afterward, he travelled to Western Hunan to Fenghuang to paint its beauteous landscapes. There he had the sudden urge to paint in Zhangjiajie. This is how he recalled that journey: “It was a simple road for vehicles for the purposes of forest protection. It was pretty bumpy, lined with stones and pebbles. Lorries would jerkily move along the road … By evening, the lorry arrived at a valley that was filled with trees and lined with mountain peaks. The greenery was vibrant as the landscape transformed itself. I guess I arrived at Zhangjiajie.” The painter stayed at the government-run timber yard in Laomowan. He borrowed a large board used by the labourers for preparing dough, which was carried by a few men to the mountains. “I made two large ink paintings, as well as some quick sketches.” This painting is one of them.

  • Wu Guanzhong, Boating in Jiangnan, Ink and Colour on Paper, Estimate HK$ 2,800,000-4,000,000.
    The water towns of Jiangnan with its winding rivers and bridges, no matter whether the hometown of Lu Xun or the famed locale of Yixing, are frequent subjects of Wu Guanzhong’s output of the 1980s. Although this work belongs to that period, it is unusual in its composition and approach. In the foreground is a stone bridge that cuts across the width of the work with the river flowing below. Houses with typical black rooftops and white walls are dotted along the banks with willow trees. Even as the eye cast toward the far distance there are still another stone bridge that repeats the same visual motif, while the bridge in front is squarish, the one afar is curvaceous. The painter invites the viewer to take a boat journey, travelling deep into the meandering river, raising our eyes to admire the scenery that seemingly changes with as we travel deep into the painting. There an endless vista of a water town is masterfully captured by the artist.


  • (Left) Lin Fengmian, Lotus Pond, Ink And Colour on Paper, Estimate HK$ 2,000,000-3,000,000. (Right) Lin Fengmian, Autumn Scenery, Ink And Colour on Paper, Estimate HK$ 2,000,000-3,000,000.
    These two paintings were acquired by the original collector in 1965. At that time, he was on staff in a prominent Danish trading company that was founded in the late 19th century, a pioneer in the China trade with branches in Shanghai and Hong Kong. To date, the company has been in operation for more than a century. In the 1950s and 1960s, the company was involved in shipping, its liners shuttling between Shanghai and Hong Kong. Some members of its Shanghai staff were acquainted with Lin Fengmian and appreciative of his artistry. They would visit Lin’s studio and commission works to bring back to their home country as mementos of their time in China. These paintings came into being because of such circumstances. The paintings were shipped to Denmark and remained in the family for the next generation. This is the first time they are offered to the public.

  • (Left) Lin Fengmian, Four Magpies on the Branch, Ink And Colour on Paper, Estimate HK$ 1,400,000-1,800,000. (Right) Lin Fengmian, Autumn Woods, Ink And Colour on Paper, Estimate HK$ 1,600,000-2,000,000.
    This series originates from noted Shanghai art connoisseur Wang Yiping’s collection. Lin Fengmian left Shanghai for Hong Kong in October 1977. Two years later, Lin wrote to Wang Yiping and other friends, informing them that he wanted to donate the 105 paintings he left in Shanghai’s China Art Academy to the Chinese government. These two paintings were gifts from Lin to Wang and inscribed as such. They might have been given to Wang as a token of friendship on the eve of Lin’s departure.

  • Arnold Lee
    Lin Fengmian, Still Life, Ink And Colour on Paper, Estimate HK$ 1,800,000-2,400,000.
    This work belongs to the Cheng Xin Xuan Collection of 19th and 20th century paintings. Although the canvas was not signed, according to written records, it dates from 1957.


We use our own and third party cookies to enable you to navigate around our Site, use its features and engage on social media, and to allow us to perform analytics, remember your preferences, provide services that you have requested and produce content and advertisements tailored to your interests, both on our Site as well as others. For more information, or to learn how to change your cookie or marketing preferences, please see our updated Privacy Policy & Cookie Policy.

By continuing to use our Site, you consent to our use of cookies and to the practices described in our updated Privacy Policy.