Wu Guanzhong: “the Eastern Matisse”
On the night of June 4th, 2017, the Beijing Poly 2017 Spring “Chinese Contemporary Art Auction” ended in Beijing at the Four Seasons Hotel. 93 works were auctioned and the volume of transaction reached 166 million yuan. Wu Guanzhong’s Red Lotus, painted in 1974, and Mount Kilimanjaro, painted in 1975, were sold at the prices of 32.775 million yuan and 32.2 million yuan, respectively, and were the two most valuable works sold.
Wu Guanzhong was born in Yixin City, Jiangsu Province. In 1936, he entered the Hangzhou National College of Art, studying western painting under the guidance of Lin Fengmian. After graduation in 1942, he started teaching at Chongqing University.
In 1946, Wu furthered his study in France with a scholarship provided by the Ministry of Education. He was enrolled in the National Academy of Fine Art in Paris and studied western art history at the Louvre.
In the autumn of 1950, Wu Guanzhong returned to China and taught at the Central Academy of Fine Art in the Architectural Department of Tsinghua University, as well as the Beijing Art Institute and the Central Academy of Art and Design.
He was of the last group of painters that were sent abroad in the old China and the first group of painters that came back to serve the new China. He has a thorough knowledge of both Chinese and Western art. He studied the ponds, lotus, and willow of Monet, the green forests of Cezanne, the scenery and characters of Vincent Van Gogh, the lyrical paintings of Utrillo, and the lines of Matisse. Being a distinctive and distinguished painter in both the field of oil painting and traditional Chinese painting, he is called “the Eastern Matisse.”
In 1991, Wu was made an Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture. In 1992, the British Museum broke the convention of only exhibiting ancient relics, holding a personal exhibition for the living painter Wu Guanzhong for the first time. In 1993, Musee Cernuschi in Paris held an event “Look to the World—Wu Guanzhong Oil Painting and Ink Painting Sketch Exhibition” and awarded him with the “Golden Medal of Paris.”
In 1999, China’s National Ministry of Culture held “An Exhibition of Wu Guanzhong’s Paintings.” In 2000, he became the first Asian artist to be awarded the Médaille des Arts et Lettres by the Académie des BeauxArts de l’Institut de France in the 200 years since the establishment of the institute.
In the eyes of Western people, the Chinese paintings of Wu Guanzhong contain the features and elements of Eastern culture. In the eyes of Eastern people, his paintings reflect the style and form of Western art—possessing a new aesthetic orientation of its own.
A few representative paintings by Wu Guanzhong are carefully singled out for the benefit of readers.
2017年6 月 4 日晚，北京保利2017春拍“中国现当代艺术夜场”在北京四季酒店收槌，共上拍93 件作品，实现总成交额1.66亿元。其中，吴冠中作于1974 年和 1975年的《红莲》和《乞力马扎罗雪山》分别以3277.5 万元和 3220万元成交，成为本场拍卖价格前两位的拍品。
● Mount Kilimanjaro《乞力马扎罗雪山》