Author: WU GUANZHONG 吴冠中

Size: 30.1×40.6cm

Signed and dated: Painted in 1961

Estimate: No Reserve

Final Price: RMB 1,200,000

2010 Oriental Art Exhibition / P60-61 / Baiyaxuan
2012 Collected Works of Wu Guanzhong 10 / P190 / Hunan Art Publishing House
2015 Independent Spirit - Wu Guanzhong Art Exhibition / P12-13/ Baiyaxuan
2019 Wu Guanzhong’s Painting Notes / P14-15 / Shandong People’s Publishing House
signed in Chinese and dated 1961
2015 Independent Spirit - Wu Guanzhong Art Exhibition, Baiyaxuan, Beijing
2016 Three’s Company · Road to the Peak - Dong Xiwen, Wu Guanzhong, Shao Jingkun Art Exhibition, Baiyaxuan, Beijing

Mr. Wu Guanzhong created numerous watercolor works between 1950s and early 1960s, during which he was called a watercolorist. Wu recalled in a memoir Me and Watercolor: “I’ve had an intimate interaction with watercolors. During my days of studying painting in National Hangzhou Art College, initially I was trying to practice sketching, so after class I often depicted the sceneries in West Lake along with Zhu Dequn. The light-colored and heavy makeup sceneries, alongside their reflections in the water, the fuse of water and color hypnotized me….After graduation, I held teaching positions in the Architectural Department twice. Watercolor is a key course in the Architectural Department, so to convince the students I had to make conscientious efforts in creating watercolors. Most of my published pieces in 1950s were watercolors.”
“Watercolor didn’t fail me. In the beginning, I majored in oil painting and minored in traditional Chinese painting. Watercolor, as a bridge between the two major types, acted as a matchmaker in my artistic life. The color in oil color, the water in water ink, encounter in the little watercolor, alternate in day and night, and spark inseparable affections. The exploration of localization of oil painting leads to infiniteness. I also once made use of the lightness and quickness of watercolor to attenuate the thickness, denseness of oil color, applied transparent light color for the pursuit of the approachable effect liked by Chinese plebeians. It is rightly because of my preference toward Shi Tao, Zhu Da and the thorough depiction in water ink while studying traditional Chinese painting, I integrated many water ink elements into my watercolors. I took turns at utilizing oil painting, watercolor and water ink.”
In 1961, Chinese Artists Association organized artists like Wu Guanzhong, Dong Xiwen to go to Tibet for sketching, resulting in multiple Tibet-themed watercolors, part of which were destroyed in the Cultural Revolution and the remaining few donated to the major government-funded galleries. This Plebeian Democracy Enters Tibet is one of Wu’s watercolor portraits scantly seen in market. The whole picture contains very few bright colors, depicting, with minimalistic free strokes, a slightly dimly lighted room hanged with a map of China and a picture of Chairman Mao. The occupants of most of the scene are Tibetans in the room. We can’t see most of their facial expressions because of the angle, but the sight of their backs is vivid and lifelike. From the smile on the faces of several Tibetans at the left downside corner of the scene, we may distinctly perceive that the air in the conference venue is easy and amicable, which is close to using super-free stroke language to depict the exultation about the entrance of democracy into Tibet. We can feel the exultation and glee of former Tibetan serfs who were delivered from the slavery. The mainstream of 1960s Chinese portraits was Soviet-style realistic paintings with focus on character imaging instead of character spirit. Such a vivid painting character language as presented by Wu shall be quite rare in the contemporary Chinese fine art circle.
Michael Sullivan, the Chinese art expert known around the world, once said: “Wu Guanzhong’s quit from portraits created a void in China’s modern art”. Therefore this Plebeian Democracy Enters Tibet not only resembles a gem during Wu’s painting life, but also possesses quite important artistic value in China’s portrait painting history. It gives an unequivocal hint that Wu has created a character painting language of utmost modernity through his perfect integration of the simple, abstract, vivid character free stroke spirit pioneered by Liang Kai, the originator of super-free stroke portraits in China’s classical time, and the impressionistic character expression form from the west.