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 Guanzhong Wu  (1919 - 2010)

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Lived/Active: China/France      Known for: impressionist landscape, figure, animal and architecture painting

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from Auction House Records.
LION WOODS
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Following is the artists's obituary, published in The New York Times.

Wu Guanzhong, Chinese Artist, Dies at 90
By JOYCE HOR-CHUNG LAU
Published: June 27, 2010

HONG KONG — Wu Guanzhong, a master of modern Chinese painting, died Friday in Beijing. He was 90.

The South China Morning Post in Hong Kong said in an obituary that Mr. Wu was “one of the most important figures of 20th-century Chinese art.”  In his last years, he gave generously to public museums.

He donated dozens of paintings to the Hong Kong Museum of Art, adding to a collection of previous gifts.  In a last gesture Friday, he added five more ink works, the state news agency Xinhua reported. The museum, which is now holding a solo show for Mr. Wu, called his works “a major contribution to the integration of Chinese and Western art.”

In 2008, Mr. Wu gave 113 works to the Singapore Art Museum in a donation valued at 73.7 million Singapore dollars, about $53 million.

Wu Guanzhong was born in 1919 in Jiangsu Province. He studied at the École Nationale Supérieur des Beaux-arts in Paris on scholarship. While some of his contemporaries chose to stay in the West, Mr. Wu returned to China to teach at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and other institutions. He was sent to a labor camp during the upheaval of the Cultural Revolution, and did not hold his first solo show until he was 59.

Mr. Wu’s landscapes, which combine Western oil painting and Chinese ink techniques, are prized by collectors.

In 2007, his “Ancient City of Jiaohe” sold for 37 million renminbi, or about $5 million at the time, in Beijing. It was painted during a trip Mr. Wu took to the Xinjiang region of China. In December, his “The Great Falls of Tanzania” sold for 30.8 million renminbi, also in Beijing.

Mr. Wu had an impact on the way the Western art world viewed Chinese painting. In 1992, he was the first living Chinese artist to have a solo exhibition at the British Museum in London.

In 1991, France made him an officer of l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 2002, he was the first Chinese artist to be awarded the Médaille des Arts et Lettres by the Académie des Beaux-Arts de l’Institut de France.

Mr. Wu was active to the end. The South China Morning Post reported that he created four last works this year. They will be displayed in Hong Kong this month.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Wu Guanzhong (b.1919-d. 2010)
 
Born in Jiangsu Province. Wu Guanzhong's training in Western art began at Hangzhou Academy of Arts in 1936 under Lin Fengmian.  After graduating in 1942, he took up a teaching position at the Ministry of Education.  He then traveled to France and during the next four years studied oil painting under Professor J.M. Souverable at the The école Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-arts and A. L'Hote and L'Frieze studios.  He also studied art history at the L'école du Louvre. 

After returning to China from France in 1950, Wu Guanzhong taught at Central Academy of Fine Arts, Tsinghua University, and Beijing Art Institute.  Currently, he is a professor at Central Academy of Arts and Design.  He has painted in Oil since 1950, even during the Cultural Revolution. 

His international fame is evidenced by two recent exhibitions of his Oil paintings - the 1989-1990 Chinese Culture Foundation of San Francisco's "Wu Guanzhong : A Contemporary Chinese Artist" and "Wu Guanzhong,A Twentieth-Century Chinese Painter," held at the British Museum in London in 1993.  In 1995,the Hong Kong Art Museum held lectures and exhibitions about the artist and his work. 

Source:
China Guardian Auctions

Added note:

In 2008, Wu Guanzhong donated 113 oil and ink paintings valued at $53 million to the Singapore Art Museum.  Just shortly before his death, Wu donated five pieces to the Hong Kong Museum of Art, bringing to 52 his total contribution of works to the museum.

Wu Guanzhong died on Friday, June 25 in Beijing, China, at the age of 90.


Biography from Tobin Reese Fine Art:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010) was a Chinese impressionist painter and writer. He is often credited with elevating the popularity of Chinese painting on an international scale. Today, he is considered to be one of the most important painters of the 20th century.

Wu was born in Yixing in the People's Republic of China. Located in the Yangtze River Delta, Wu had lots of exposure to the natural beauty which would come to dominate his paintings. However, his exposure to art came late as an electrical engineering student at the Zhejiang Industrial School, where a chance encounter with art student Zhu Dequn. Zhu invited Wu to visit his school, the National Hangzhou Academy of Art, and Wu immediately fell in love with art. Against his family's wishes, he transferred to the academy in 1936 and began his artistic career.

Shortly after transferring, the Sino-Japanese War broke out and the academy had to move several times in order to avoid the invading Japanese. However, Wu viewed this upheaval as an advantage as he gained opportunities to see a variety of locations and study with a number of teachers; he would not have had these opportunities had the academy stayed in the same place for the entire program of his study. Despite the hardships, Wu graduated in 1942 and immediately found work as a substitute art teacher; this job acted as a stepping stone for him securing a position as a teacher at Chongqing University.

Wu decided to study French language and culture, knowing that he would one day visit Paris in order to continue his studies. This wish was granted in 1947 when he was chosen as one of two artists to receive a scholarship for study at the prestigious École National Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Wu, a French art enthusiast, found that Paris provided him with a nearly endless supply of artistic input and output that he desired; he spent almost all of his waking hours engaging in some form with the art scene, whether browsing expansive museum collections or feverishly improving his artistic technique based on the paintings that he encountered. Of particular interest to Wu was the vast differences between European and Chinese culture; he particular connected to the personal struggles of artists which would influence their art; he was particular interested in how the internal struggles of Vincent Van Gogh affected the art that he produced. He also learned and adopted the aesthetic of formalism while in Paris.

Upon his return to China in 1950, Wu found a country which had just undergone a great amount of change. He channeled this change into enthusiasm for his new job as a teacher at the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing, where he taught until 1953. He was one of the first artists to bring formalism and modernism to the academy. However, his enthusiasm for these techniques was not well received and he moved to a job at Tsinghua University. However, Wu's life changed dramatically when Chairman Mao Zedong unveiled his Cultural Revolution in 1966. Wu was forced to destroy his art and perform hard labor in rice fields beginning in 1970. He was initially prohibited from painting and was finally allowed to paint only on Sundays. He was released from labor and returned to Beijing near the end of 1972.

Upon his return to the city, Wu made several changes to his artistic style in response to the needs of a changing world. He began to use watercolors and explore more Chinese imagery and techniques, a departure from his previous works rooted in European tradition. However, upon Mao's death in 1976, Wu returned to the formalist style which he loved so well, a style that seemed to appeal to audiences outside of the newly-opened China. He began to contribute to an international dialog about formalism in art, producing several theoretical essays on the subject.

In 1991, to honor his artistic achievement, the French government bestowed upon him the title of Officier de l'Order des Arts et des Lettres. In 1992, he was the first living artist to have his paintings exhibited at the British Museum in London. He passed away in 2010 in Beijing.

Source:
Ian Martyn for Tobin Reese Fine Art

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