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New Donation of Wu Guanzhong's Paintings and Personal Archives

The family of Wu Guanzhong has generously made another round of donation of Wu Guanzhong's invaluable works to the Hong Kong Museum of Art as its permanent collection. The donated works included the painting A household at the foot of mountain which was created when he was sent to the countryside to do hard labour work in the 1970s and he painted on cardboards placed on top of "dung basket", as well as sketches of several masterpieces such as A riverside village of Ningbo (sketch of Two swallows), The Original draft of Chinese cypresses (horizontal scroll) and A river alley of Suzhou. Together with the existing Wu Guanzhong collection of oil paintings and ink paintings that the Museum holds, these unseen works unveiled the epitome of Wu Guanzhong's artistic creation. In addition to paintings and sketches, the donation also included the seals that Wu Guanzhong frequently used, the documents he used and certificates received in France as well as the ribboned gilt medallion awarded by the French government, which chronicles Wu Guanzhong's journey of artistic pursuit.

Wu Guanzhong (1919 – 2010) was a master in Chinese art with comprehensive knowledge of art of both East and West. Dedicating his entire life to the exploration of the modernisation of Chinese painting and the nationalisation of oil painting, his works juxtaposed the aesthetic perspectives and connotations of traditional Chinese ink painting and contemporary Western painting. Notably, Wu created scenes of Jiangnan waterways with western painting patches to express rich eastern emotions. He depicted the vitality of wisteria and old cypress with flexuous lines, and added brilliant colours to nature and life. His vivid artistic language featured works of dots, lines and cubes, as well as palettes comprising black, white and grey or red, yellow and green. Establishing the unique "Wu's studio style," he distinguished himself as a master painter of the 20th century in China and indeed the rest of the world.

The art master's connection with Hong Kong extends a long way. He returned to China by train via the old Kowloon terminus in Tsim Sha Tsui  near where the Hong Kong Museum of Art is located nowadays  in the early 1950s upon completing his studies in Paris. Subsequently, he visited Hong Kong on various occasions for creating artworks, holding art exhibitions, attending academic seminars and giving lectures and travelled widely throughout the city. In 2002, the Hong Kong Museum of Art organised a large-scale exhibition "Wu Guanzhong: A Retrospective" and invited Wu to give his unprecedented demonstration of landscape sketching in public. Unperturbed by bad weather, he captured Victoria Harbour on paper in the rain and it has become a well-known story in the art circle. He has once said, "In Hong Kong, I could see the East and the West. People can exchange their ideas in almost anything… That's why I like Hong Kong."

Commenting on the success of the exhibition, Wu Guanzhong wrote in his autobiography I Owe Painting that "(Hong Kong Museum of Art) did not simply hang up my works. They thoroughly understood and interpreted my artistic endeavour as well as the context of my art exploration… For example, the Two swallows drawn in the 1980s, the Former residence of Qiu Jin painted ten years later, and Time passed and the two swallows gone (that is Reminiscence of Jiangnan) painted another ten years down the road, were exhibited side-by-side. I felt that I have been captured, and my heart and private thoughts revealed; I was so touched and shocked at the same time… As an artist, I rejoice in knowing that someone understands me." In his own words, one can see the affection that Wu had towards Hong Kong and the trust and recognition that he placed for the Hong Kong Museum of Art.

Thanks to these generous donations, the Hong Kong Museum of Art now boasts the biggest and most diverse collection of works by Wu Guanzhong in the world. The Wu family made many donations to the Hong Kong Museum of Art over the years, making up a huge collection of over 450 items, comprising oil paintings, ink paintings, sketches, watercolours, gouache paintings, acrylic paintings, porcelain painting and personal archives by the great artist over more than half a century. The Museum is also one of the key international centres for modern Chinese painting collection and research. To present this celebrated collection with due esteem and to share such kind and gracious donations with the public, the Donation Ceremony for the Works of Wu Guanzhong was held at the Government House on 22 August 2018, where the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Mrs Carrie Lam, presented a Certificate of Appreciation to the eldest son of Wu Guanzhong, Mr Wu Keyu, who received the certificate on behalf of Wu Guanzhong's family. Mrs Lam also expressed her utmost gratitude to Wu Guanzhong and his family for their recognition and faith in Hong Kong, in entrusting the Museum with the many rounds of donations of invaluable masterpieces, and in continuing the artist's noble wish to give the artworks back to the public. A permanent "Wu Guanzhong Art Gallery" will showcase the master's donated works and related collection at the Hong Kong Museum of Art when it reopens in the second half of 2019. A series of activities will also be organised to commemorate the centenary birthday of Wu Guanzhong.

 



The Chief Executive, Mrs Carrie Lam (left), presented a certificate of appreciation to the eldest son of Wu Guanzhong,
Mr Wu Keyu (right).

 



The Chief Executive, Mrs Carrie Lam (middle), viewed selected paintings from the collection at the Donation Ceremony with
Mr Wu Keyu (left).


 

A riverside village of Ningbo (sketch of "Two swallows")
1980
Carbonic ink and pen on paper
23.6 x 32.8 cm

 

A river alley of Suzhou
1956
Oil on board
46.2 x 61.3 cm

 

Reminiscences of snow upon the Taihang Mountains from a distance
1991
Ink and colour on paper
96.7 x 180.6 cm

 

Wu Guanzhong made sketches around Hong Kong with his wife in 1990.


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