Gou Runwen, “Standing Nude with Back View”
This field will be led at our auction by a painting by Gou Runwen, “Standing Nude with Back View.” Born in 1955 in the Zhejiang Province, Runwen originally studied art for the theatre, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree from the Department of Stage Art of Shanghai Drama Institute in 1982. Not two years later his work was shown in an exhibition of young artists, and he returned to school, graduating in 1988 from the Oil Painting Department of the Central Academy of Art. Runwen is now a professor of oil painting at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, and serves on many art committees, art associations, and as the vice chairman of Guangdong Artist Association. His work has received nearly a dozen awards from art museums and art expos in China, and has been shown in seven exhibitions at the China National Museum of Fine Arts, as well as numerous other museums in China. Internationally, his pieces have been shown in Italy and the United States, and remain in the permanent collections of the Mentova Museum, the Shanghai Art Museum, the China Historical Museum and the Guan Zhou Art Museum.
A realist painter, Runwen presents his subjects–most usually, female figures, clothed or nude–with a flawless, compassionate clarity. Realist oil painting is an important movement in contemporary Chinese art. A 2007 exhibition in China called “China Realism”–featuring works from Runwen, amongst others–called realism “the most direct and powerful way of communication between art and populace,” noting that it has “a mainstream position in Chinese oil-painting.” “Standing Nude with Back View” is an excellent example of Runwen’s work; the luminous but realistic human form leaps from the dark background. This work of oil on canvas measures 31.5″ by 21.5″ and bears the artist’s signature and is dated March 1988, both in Chinese, in the lower right. We acquired it from a Delaware collection, and it was previously purchased directly from the artist in 1988 in his studio at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. It is expected to sell for $30,000 – $40,000.
There are many important movements in contemporary Chinese painting, however, and we are proud to be representing several of them in our inaugural auction. Some artists continue to explore traditional Chinese painting, known sometimes as ‘native’ or ‘national’ painting. One of the most accomplished of these artists is Fan Zeng, born in 1938, using the traditional method of ink or color brushwork, typically on paper or silk, in contrast to oils on canvas. This style bears much in common with calligraphy, and Zeng paints with simple, vigorous strokes, evoking a figure, landscape or animal in a few vivid lines. Zeng is in fact also a calligrapher, poet and writer, and often incorporates the written word into his paintings.
Zeng’s love of traditional Chinese art stems in part from his own family history, which counts thirteen generations of artists devoted to painting, calligraphy, poetry and prose, dating all the way back to the Song Dynasty. As a child, practicing calligraphy was part of his daily homework, and became a member of the Nantong Artists Association at the age of 13. Zeng originally majored in history at Nankai University, before transferring to the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing to study art history. He worked at the National Museum of Chinese History; he has also spent many years as a professor at Nankai University, serving as Dean of the Oriental Art Department, and in 1999 he was made a Distinguished Professor. He also dedicates time to advisory positions to the China Art Institute, the College of Chinese Studies in China, Renmin University, and the Academy of Chinese Culture in Beijing. Exhibitions of his work have been held in China, Hong Kong, Japan and Europe; he is so popular in Japan that an art gallery devoted exclusively to his work was opened there in 1983—a remarkable sign of esteem, since the only other foreign artist to have a dedicated art gallery in Japan is Pablo Picasso.