Guan Liang's artistic development was closely tied to the political environment. From the end of World War II to the Chinese Civil War, Guan taught at The Hangzhou National School of Art (now The China Academy of Art). He saw the school's name change twice, and he participated in the socialist revolution in the educational system. Guan was a teacher throughout his 50s. When he was not teaching, he concentrated on his own art, creating works such as Hangzhou Ling Yin Temple (Lot 1018). Hangzhou has long been a source of fascination for the literati, inspiring poetry and paintings for centuries past. Many have been drawn to Hangzhou, leaving behind masterworks. Guan Liang became interested in Hangzhou's picturesque scenery, especially after leading such an itinerant, tumultuous life for many years during the war. He was happy finally to be able to concentrate on his work. In his memoirs, he wrote, "The school buildings at the National School of Art were located in the shady, forested Hardoon Garden... The gentle breeze and clean fragrance sometimes made me feel that I had really found an ideal place to create art."
Guan was exceptionally insightful, and he excelled at painting from life. Most of his landscapes only focus on one corner of a scene, which stands in for the whole. His work conveys a warmth, inviting the viewer to share the artist's real, personal vision. The composition of Hangzhou Ling Yin Temple reflects this logic. The selected subject matter is neither the wondrous sight of an ancient temple and undulating mountains nor the solemn and symbolic architecture of a sacred sanctuary. Instead, he cleverly captured a tree-shaded avenue, creating depth through the rows of old trees. Between the shadows cast by the tree trunks, light permeates the tree leaves to illuminate the road, and the dappled light guides visitors to two pavilions with red pillars and green tiles in the near distance. The entire scene has a sense of drama, bringing viewers through the layers and allowing them to savour the image's details and levels. A big tree is located at the edge of the image, which seems to support the entire picture. This appears to reference the classic composition and simple sense of distance in Cézanne's Mont Sainte-Victoire series, but this Impressionist foundation has been seamlessly internalized and handled masterfully. A similar composition appears in Tree and Bridge, which echoes Hangzhou Ling Yin Temple. There are very few people walking on the path, but the image is far from desolate. The path, pavilions, and pedestrians are all enveloped by massive trees, complemented by a warm and sweet use of colour that gives the work an abundant sense of spring. The religious implications are not explicit, but the sense of spiritual serenity washes over the mind. The landscape has a purifying effect, allowing the viewer to let go of thoughts of the human world and instead become immersed in this living "stage" constructed by Guan.
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