Seated Nude (Nu assis) Oil on canvas, framed Signed Sanyu in French and Yu in Chinese Signed and dated 1.1931 on the reserve With a wood label affixed to the stretcher with the initials 'HPR' standing for Henri-Pierre Roché on the reverse 73cm x 50cm (28¾in x 19¾in).
Provenance: Collection of Henri-Pierre Roché, Paris
Published: Rita Wong, Sanyu: Catalogue Raisonné Oil Paintings, Yageo Foundation, Lin & Keng Art Publications, Taipei, 2001, p.113
常玉 椅子上的裸女 油彩畫布 一九三一年作
背面簽名：SANYU 1.1931 背面畫布框木標籤簽名:HPR（昂利·皮耶·侯謝英文縮寫）
Sanyu is today among the most recognized Chinese artists of the 20th century. Trained in calligraphy and traditional Chinese painting from an early age in his homeland, he furthered his artistic education in France, arriving in the French capital only aged 20. Sanyu was deeply inspired by the Parisian art scene. Like many of his compatriots, such as Xu Beihong, Pan Yuliang or Lin Fengmian, who went to study in Paris, he was fascinated by the study of foreign forms. He was among the very first Chinese artists to stay in Paris, then the centre of the international art world, where the informal 'School of Paris' was leading the charge of modernity.
Sanyu's pioneered the association of the art of ink and the fluidity and rapidity of the Chinese brushstroke with Western subjects, forms and media. The subject he favored was the Nude, then a foreign and forbidden subject in Chinese art education and practice. It is to retain the freedom to explore this Western artistic tradition of painting the Nude, and to be at the core of the artistic experiments of the time that he stayed in Paris. His friend, fellow artist Pan Yuliang, herself came back to Paris for this very reason(Her work depicting the female body was not well-received in China, despite the support of such established masters as Liu Haisu). The keen interest in the Nude, a long standing tradition in the West, is rooted in its novelty for Chinese artists. Rendering the human body, requires different skills and techniques foreign to the Chinese artistic tradition The absence of inhibition both present in the art training available in Paris and in the cultural context of the 'annees folles' (Roaring 20s) in Paris certainly fostered both artists's experiments with the topic and inspired them deeply.
Sanyu was constantly exploring beyond the art of Chinese ink as well as Western drawing. He relentlessly drew sketches of nudes, with ink, pencil or charcoal and even watercolours. Hundreds of such drawings, sometimes even executed on Parisian cafe's paper tablecloths, remain to testify of his artistic research. These sketches document clearly the artist's experiments and his focus. Sanyu explored postures, angles and perspective as well. While he retains the traditional medium of ink and of the minimalist gesture of the Chinese brushstroke, a major source of inspiration for him is photography, then a new medium for artists. The disproportionate legs many of his sketches feature are notably inspired by the possibilities of photography. The body seems to be viewed from the ground and at an angle instead of at human eye level and straight on. Sanyu was very involved in the Parisian art scene and had relationships with such artists as Picabia, Duchamp or Man Ray. The influence of Man Ray's photographic work is clear in this painting, 'Nu Assis', reminiscent of the 'Violon d'Ingres' (see illustration), probably the most iconic work of Man Ray.
It is under the influence of his dealer, collector and mentor Henri-Pierre Roché that Sanyu started working with the Western medium of oil painting. An extremely influential art dealer in Paris at the time, related to the most famous artists in the French capital, Henri-Pierre Roché was a also writer, notably famous for the novel Jules et Jim. He introduced Sanyu to many artists in the scene, thus allowing him access to further sources of inspiration.
Every aspects of Sanyu's artistic research is present in this painting: the Nude, the influence of photography in the pose, the rapid almost uninterrupted single outline of the Chinese ink tradition, executed in the foreign and new to Sanyu media of oil. Many of his paintings show how Sanyu simplifies the rendering of the subject and intends to blend it in a subtle, often uniform, minimal background, but none to this extent. The choice of extremely subtle and delicate colours allows to almost blend the figure in the background. Sanyu's art here borders on the monochrome, which is probably the most avant-garde form of modern painting in the early 20th century (actually initiated in the late 19th century in Paris).
This painting, coming from the very collection of Henri-Pierre Roché, is the very epitome of Sanyu's quest to bridge East and West, traditional and contemporary. At the time this Seated Nude was painted, in the early 1930's, Sanyu had assimilated most of the formal innovations of the Parisian avant-garde and was playing with them while retaining the spontaneity and minimalism of the calligraphic gesture. 'Nu Assis' truly exemplifies Sanyu's pioneering research and contribution to the 20th century art history in blending the Chinese artistic tradition and the aesthetics of the European avant-garde, then at the forefront of modernity in art. Sanyu's work is undoubtedly about advancing the art of painting and being outside of the norm. 'Nu Assis' embodies the artist's spirit to perfection.
這幅畫來自Henri Pierre Roche的收藏，充分展現了常玉如何融合東方和西方、合併傳統和當代。在30年代初，當他畫〈椅子上的裸女〉時，常玉已經掌握了巴黎前衛的創新風格，並巧妙地利用它們，與此同時亦不失中國書法的自然和簡約。 〈椅子上的裸女〉真正地體現了常玉的創新研究和他對二十世紀藝術史的貢獻，融合了中國傳統繪畫和歐洲的前衛。常玉的作品無容置疑地對繪畫的發展有重大貢獻，並跳出了當時的框架。 〈椅子上的裸女〉可說是藝術家的精神的完美呈現。
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