Sanyu - Pioneers of Modernism: A Selection from the Scheeres Collection Hong Kong Saturday, May 26, 2018 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Private Collection, Paris
    Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1998

  • Literature

    Rita Wong, SANYU Catalogue Raisonne: Drawings and Watercolours, Taipei, 2014, no. D0043, electronic index p. 11 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Born in Sichuan in 1895, Sanyu was the youngest child in a wealthy family who owned a silk factory. As a young boy who trained in Chinese calligraphy, he was always encouraged to savour his love for art. After a trip to Japan in 1918 where he encountered Modern Western Art, he left Asia for Paris and its Avant-garde scene and arrived there in 1920. Once settled, unlike many of his contemporaries who studied at schools which taught the strict academic rules of painting, he chose to further his studies at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, a school dedicated to painting and sculpture free from academic constraint. It was there that he spent several years mastering the art of sketching. Sanyu soon became a familiar feature of Montparnasse. At the Académie, he befriended Alberto Giacometti and his fellow Parisian-Chinese artist Pang Xunqin, who recalls Picasso painting Sanyu’s portrait around that time. In 1929, Henri-Pierre Roché, who had already supported the careers of Duchamp, Braque and Brancusi, agreed to be his dealer.

    It is in Sanyu’s drawings that we see his concept and experimentation in perspective. His love for photography is noticeably evident through the play of perspective, where he takes on the view of a wide-angle camera lens to accentuate the hips and thighs of his nudes. One of the artist’s most loyal and well-known supporters and friends, the celebrated poet Xu Zhimo, once said that his nudes had the ‘the thighs of the universe’.

    Having had years of rigorous practice in traditional Chinese calligraphy since a young age, Sanyu brilliantly incorporates the ink-wash technique into his nude drawings, evoking the beauty of the flesh. Moving away from the traditions of Western sketching through the use of charcoal and pen, Sanyu instead uses the rhythm of the calligraphy brush to create vividly subversive lines of the flesh, not only showing his ability to create flow and resilience in movement, but also demonstrating the simple yet exquisite qualities of Chinese ink painting.

Pioneers of Modernism: A Selection from The Scheeres Collection



signed 'Yu [in Chinese] SANYU' lower right
ink and charcoal on paper
44.2 x 55.4 cm. (17 3/8 x 21 3/4 in.)

HK$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for HK$1,187,500

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Pioneers of Modernism: A Selection from the Scheeres Collection

Hong Kong Auction 27 May 2018