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