Lustrous Chinese art sees big bids at HK auction

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A flower still-life by Chinese-French painter Sanyu (Chang Yu, 1901-1966) fetched a whopping HK$103.58 million ($13.35 million) at a Hong Kong auction Saturday night.

Sanyu, Chrysanthemums in A Glass Vase [Photo provided to China Daily]

Chrysanthemums in a Glass Vase was painted in the 1950s and a French family collection acquired the painting from the artist in 1965.

Born into a wealthy family in Sichuan province, Sanyu went to France to study art in 1921 and had spent the rest of his life in Paris.

Flowers were a frequent motif of Sanyu’s oil paintings, in which he explored the harmony of color, space and light and successfully presented the graceful simplicity of Eastern aesthetics.

In Chrysanthemums in a Glass Vase, he applied only ochre, scarlet-black and gold to create its lustrous appeal.

The painting was among the 15 lots being hammered at a Christie’s evening sale of Asian art.

In the same sale, another Chinese-French master painter Chu Teh-chun’s (1920-2014) abstract work, Snowy Vertigo, was sold for HK$91.82 million.

It was inspired by a train trip from Switzerland to France in 1985 during which Chu saw a snow storm striking the Alps. He thus created a series of paintings to reflect snow scenes, including the one on auction that took him nearly a decade to complete.

Zao Wou-ki’s (1920-2013) Water Music was sold for HK$48.7 million. In the oil painting, he traversed ancient Chinese characters among a void of colors to achieve a feeling of infinity. Both Chu and Zao were schoolmates at the Hangzhou Fine Art School (now China Academy of Fine Art) and members of the Academy of Fine Arts of France.

Their headmaster Lin Fengmian (1900-1991) was a part of the first generation of Chinese painters trained in France. His oil work Fishing Village was sold for HK$39.74 million.

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