On The Square

Modernist Masterpieces by Wang Chi-Yuan

By Anthony Wu

May 18,2017 | 09:00 EDT

Thomaston Place Auction Galleries will be holding their sale of Asian and Indo-Persian Arts on June 2. This sale features 270 works from the Asian continent including China, Japan, India, the Himalayan region, and the Middle East.

A particularly stunning aspect is a collection of 20 paintings by the Chinese modernist painter Wang Chi-Yuan (Wang Jiyuan) 王濟遠 (1893-1975). Born in Anhui (or Anhwei) Province in China, he studied at the Shanghai College of Art during the 1910’s where he learned both traditional Chinese and Western painting techniques.

After trips to Europe and Japan, he heavily promoted Western-style painting techniques to students and colleagues. He was able to combine traditional Chinese aesthetics with modernist ideas of perspective, brushstrokes, lighting and sensuality. Wang was proficient with various mediums including ink, watercolor and oil. During the Chinese war-torn years, the artist fled to San Francisco in 1942 before settling in New York City. He set up the Wang School of Art at 399 East 72nd Street and exhibited profusely throughout the USA including the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Lot 153, Wang Chi-Yuan, Peony and Magnolia, Chinese watercolor horizontal scroll, 1962

Many of Wang’s different styles and techniques are on display at the Thomaston auction. Lot 153 is a long horizontal scroll titled ‘Peony and Magnolia’ and dated 1962 in Chinese. The format is traditional Chinese, but the use of sensuous colors and shading to bring out the verdant florals is very Western in its aesthetic. This painting has an estimate of $15,000-$20,000 USD.

Lot 155, Wang Chi-Yuan, Pine Tree, Chinese watercolor with gold brocade calligraphy band above and below

Lot 155 is another of Wang’s paintings and titled ‘Pine Tree’. The style does not look very Chinese at all with its modern-looking large red trees consisting of thick brushstrokes. The intensity of the colors and calligraphic lines gives the trees a very expressionist feel. This painting is dated in Chinese to the 60th year of the Republican period (1971) and carries an estimate of $10,000-$15,000 USD.

Lot 174, Florence Pasternack, Still Life, Chinese watercolor, mounted on a scroll in the Chinese fashion

The set of Wang Chi-Yuan paintings come from the collection of Florence Pasternack, one of his former students. Pasternack also has five of her own Wang-inspired paintings up for auction at Thomaston. Lot 174 titled ‘Still Life’ uses traditional Chinese inks and paper, yet depicts a plate of fruits with a Western twist. She uses Chinese text to date the painting to 1965, and signs it with her Chinese name 佛羅朗思 (Fo-Luo-Lang-Si) which would have been an approximate translation for ‘Florence’. This painting is estimated at $700-$900 USD.

Lot 82, Pair of Large Japanese Mixed Metal Vases, Meiji Bronze Footed Baluster Vases with Squared Handles

In addition to the collection Wang Chi-Yuan paintings, Thomaston also has a strong selection of Japanese mix-metal bronze wares from the late 19th Century. One of the highlights is lot 82, a Pair of Large Japanese Mixed Metal Vases. These are dated to the Meiji Period and would have been catered to the Western market during 1880’s and 1890’s. In addition to their striking shapes, the roundels contain a dynamic scene of deities on one side and peaches on the other. Gold, silver and copper inlays accent the scenes. This pair of vases have an estimate of $8,500-$9,500 USD. 

The Spring Asian Art auction season is slowly winding down, but there will still be many great opportunities to find great items through Bidsquare!

Click here to view the full Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, Asian and Indo-Persian Arts on June 2