signed in Chinese; dated '75' (lower left); signed and titled in Chinese (on the reverse)
Wu Guanzhong Paintings, China Light Industry Press, Beijing, China 1986 (illustrated, p. 10).
Wu Guanzhong: A Retrospective, Hong Kong Art Centre, Hong Kong, China, 1987 (illustrated, unpaginated).
Wu Guanzhong Oil Paintings II, National Library, Singapore, 1988 (illustrated, unpaginated).
Monograph on Wu Guanzhong, Han Mo Xuan, Hong Kong, China, 1990 (illustrated, pp. 52-53).
Wu Guanzhong Paintings, Hong Kong JeFeng Group, Hong Kong, China, 1990 (illustrated, p. 89).
Special Study on Wu Guanzhong, Han Mo Xuan, Hong Kong, China, 1991 (illustrated, unpaginated).
Wu Guanzhong's Personal Selection of Paintings, The Oriental Press, Beijing, China, 1992 (illustrated, unpaginated).
Wu Guanzhong Ink, Oil and Sketching, Cemuschi Museum, Arts de Square, Paris, France, 1993 (illustrated, unpaginated).
Famous Modern Chinese Painters-Wu Guanzhong, People's Fine Arts Publishing House, Beijing, China, 1994 (illustrated, p. 127).
Wu Guanzhong's Oil Paintings, People's Fine Arts Publishing House, Beijing, China, 1996 (illustrated, p. 143).
Wu Guanzhong's Fine Selection, Arts de Square, Singapore, 1996 (illustrated, unpaginated).
Wu Guanzhong's Art Collection, GuangXi Arts Publishing House, Nanning, China, 1999 (illustrated, p. 190).
Landscape clogs marks - Wu Guanzhong, GuangXi Arts Publishing House, Nanning, China, 1999 (illustrated, p. 120).
On Wu Guanzhong - Wu Guanzhong Essays Selection, GuangXi Arts Publishing House, Nanning, China, 1999 (illustrated, p. 156).
Horizon of Life - Wu Guanzhong Special Edition, Joint Publishing, Beijing, China, 2003 (illustrated, p. 108).
Wu Guanzhong Connoisseurs Choice I, People's Fine Arts Publishing House, Beijing, China, 2003 (illustrated, pp. 72-73).
The Art of Wu Guanzhong II, Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, Changsha, China, 2007 (illustrated, pp. 288-289).
In 1992, the British Museum organized a solo exhibition of Wu Guanzhong, “Wu Guanzhong: A Twentieth-century Chinese Painter”. According to S. Melikian, art editor of the International Herald Tribune, “A master was discovered, his works could result in a transformation in painting art, and direct a way to the world’s most ancient culture, which is quite a remarkable job. Perhaps this is why it prompted the head of the British Museum who was known for the unwritten rules of only exhibiting relics. One must admit, while starring at the paintings of Wu Guanzhong, that the Chinese master is the most unusual, yet surprising discovery in the recent decades of modern paintings…” Wu Guanzhong’s works have been widely acknowledged and recognized in the West, becoming an icon of Chinese 20th Century art. In his tireless and expansive explorations, he “realized that the higher he progressed in art, the more he realized that the true essence of eastern and western art became equivalent”. Between seemingly incompatible Western oil painting and Oriental ink painting, Wu went beyond the boundaries of tradition and contemporary to achieve what he calls “culturalizing oil painting”, a long-time goal of his. By integrating qualities of Chinese and Western art, he developed a unique artistic language that connects viewers of the two sides of the world.
I depicted the scenery of Qingdao, with green trees and red houses, it seemed very westernized; the colours that I fostered are vermilion but red, and green colour so dark that it seemed like ink.
Based on its particular historical background, Qingdao has developed its own specific humane and cultural aspects. From the 19th to the early 20th century, Qingdao has been a concession governed by Germany and Japan, due to its strategic position. Gradually, German architecture has come to characterize the style of the cityscape. Seeing the splendid juxtaposition of the natural and cultural sceneries, Chinese scholar and political thinker Kang Youwei praised the beauty of Qingdao saying, “Blue ocean and sky; neither cold, nor hot. Green trees and red bricks; move with boats or vehicles”. Similarly, even Chinese scholar Yu Pingbo composed a poem titled Snapshots of Qingdao, “Green on the three sides surround the blue ocean. Over the levels of the mountains spread the red houses”. Wu Guanzhong visited Qingdao in 1975, and when facing the magnificent scenery of mountains and ocean, the artist successively made two works titled Coastal City (Qingdao) (Lot 150) and Red Chambers of Qingdao: the only two oil paintings by the artist on similar subjects. In comparison to Red Chambers of Qingdao that renders the red chamber scene with densely deployed unities through tenuous strokes, Coastal City (Qingdao) is painted with reduced sophisticated details and foreground to contrast the scarlet and blackish green colors instead. Wu’s description of the red chambers implies that “westernization” and “that the green colour he used were so dark, it seemed like ink,” are his intentions to demonstrate different points of views on color in Western and Eastern aesthetics, and further blending the two. Coastal City (Qingdao) has been exhibited in China and abroad for several times and featured in dozens of important anthologies and catalogues, attesting the value and eminence of this piece in the artist’s career.
Since the 1960s, Wu Guanzhong has forged his unique artistic vocabulary through oil landscape paintings depicting various topologies. “He loved the mood of paintings, but this mood is a combination of beauty in a particular form, and only through certain circumstances that this mood can be realized. The core of my artistic career, is to discover such mood through the eyes of painting.” The artist emphasizes the importance of the artistic state, exploring the limits of the painting’s formal beauty through varied dimensions. Undoubtedly, his mastery and deployment of color, points, fluid lines and planes have reached the peak in his works of the mid-1970s. The superimposed red bricks and green trees in Coastal City (Qingdao) incarnate his audacious scenic depictions. The varied strokes and combinations of tones embodied Wu Guanzhong’s utmost achievement in oil painting. He said, “Why did I so laboriously carried my easel for sketches on the spot? It is for the pursue of realness in my images, in order to meet people’s satisfaction of appreciation, so that people would become willing to accept bold ideas and compositions. I do my best so that my audience could experience the impulse of nature!” In Coastal City (Qingdao), through a deduction of basic geometric elements, the artist created a depth of field and a sense of space amongst the hills; an approach corresponding to the principle of perspective, indicating that things nearby as big and those faraway as small. Perhaps under the influence of the artist’s practice of ink painting since 1974, the thick blackish green is used to balance the scarlet bricks of the rooftops. The few dispersed spots of bright yellow and jade green further manifest Wu Guanzhong’s delicate use of folk colors, both as a representation of objective natural scenery and as the artist’s statement of subjective emotion.
Wu Guanzhong began to depict conglomerations of cottages from the early 1970s. Starting from the Scenery of Guilin (1973) to the City Overlooks the Yangze River (1974), contrasting the wide span of the rivers to the densely clustered cottages. This was further developed in Wu Guanzhong’s Red Chambers of Qingdao (1975), with an almost full-picture composition to focus on the compactly situated cottages. On the other hand in Coastal City (Qingdao), the artist renders the green trees and the red houses in equal dimensions, depicting the sense of distant sky and sea afar, while highlighting the rise, decline and shifts between the mountains and the ocean, the red and green colors, and lastly the void and the real. Arguably, Wu Guanzhong has reached the peak in his mastery on this subject matter. Since the mid-1970s, the artist has begun ink painting with sustained interests, developing on the subject of densely clustered cottages. In The Ancient City of Jiaohe (1981), the artist surpasses boundaries between the abstract and the figurative, further progressing in his career. The architecture of the cottages symbolize the inhabitation and cluster of mankind. Compared to traditional landscape paintings that poetically depict landscapes, Wu’s rendering of the cottages and houses certainly imbues cultural implications and metaphors on everyday life in his works. Depictions of such scenes are thus recurring within Wu Guanzhong’s many works, bestowing his profuse emotions towards daily life.
Following the diverse themes and evolution of style in Wu’s landscape paintings from the 1970s to the 1980s, Coastal City (Qingdao) implants profound meaning by integrating cultural aspects into his landscape work. Historical traces are inserted within the cottages, and help further expand Wu’s landscape works. In 1980, Wu Guanzhong created another piece titled Coastal City (Qingdao) by painting outdoors, attesting his inclination to the subject. In the fusion of color and ink, Coastal City (Qingdao) becomes a representational piece in his career, embedding culture within the natural scenery.