Sketching had taken Wu to many parts of China, but the Jiangnan area remained his favourite and he had always wanted to capture its beauty with the paint brush. He said, “As it is, this water-logged land is most noted for its waters. The small town of Yixing is sandwiched between the two lakes of Donggui and Xigui…. The Jiangnan in my works has white walls, black tiled roofs and silvery grey waters. All I want to do is to paint its beauty.”

“Time and again, I have sketched this waterway in lines and colour. Somehow, I can sense the illusion, which is the mother to sensuality. If I capture it with great precision, I will lose the complexity of the densely packed houses. This is why I have to be quick in capturing the dancing black and white plains, the echoes and contrasts between the big and the small, the distribution of the red and the green, and the addition of the dots and lines…. Otherwise, what I get will be no more than a couple of rundown houses seen in any photograph, completely devoid of the ambience of the Jiangnan area. Later on, I transplanted the scene in ink, then in oil and so on and so forth, in an attempt to create the typical Jiangnan scene.”

Wu was born and raised in Yixing in scenic and water-logged Jiangnan. He became a stranger to his native land, however, after his studies had taken him first to Chongqing, where the Academy of Art had to relocate from Hangzhou, and then France. Resident in Beijing since his return, he could only think back to his younger days for his impressions of Jiangnan. What can be more beautiful than one’s hometown in one’s memories? It is beauty purged by time.


  • Title: Waterway
  • Creator Lifespan: 1919 - 2010
  • Creator Nationality: Chinese
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: Beijing, China
  • Creator Birth Place: Yixing, Jiangsu province, China
  • Date Created: 1997
  • Theme: Landscape
  • Professor of the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts, Painter: Wu Guanzhong
  • Physical Dimensions: w60 x h73 cm
  • History of Donation: Donated by the artist to the Museum in 2002
  • Artist's Statement: In the words of the artist himself: “Flanking the brook, white walls topped by dark tiles undulate. By the bridge in the distance, noisy crowds collect. The morning market has allied with cooking smokes to allure everyone away from willows and plum blossoms.”
  • Artist's Biography: Wu Guanzhong is one of the most important and innovative artists in 20th century Chinese art for the explorations and contributions he has made by blending the essences of the East and the West through the untiring dialogues he conducted between oil painting and ink painting. Wu was born in Yixing, Jiangsu, in 1919, and went to study in France on a national scholarship in 1946. Upon his return in 1950, he taught at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. In 1991, he was honoured by the French Ministry of Culture with the Officier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres, to be followed in 1992 by the exhibition “Wu Guanzhong: A Twentieth-century Chinese Painter”, or the first ever solo exhibition for a living Chinese artist presented by the British Museum. In 1993, he received a gold medal from the City of Paris to coincide with the exhibition “Encres Récentes de Wu Guanzhong” (“Recent Ink Paintings of Wu Guanzhong”) organized by the Musée Cernuschi, Paris. Back home in China, he was elected a deputy to the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China in 1994, and had a solo exhibition held in his honour by the Ministry of Culture in 1999. In 2002, Wu became the first Chinese national to be named Correspondant by the Academie des Beaux-Arts de I’Institut de France. In 2006, the Beijing Palace Museum ran a feature exhibition in his honour to mark its first collection of a living artist’s works, including the masterpiece, Yangtze River, done by Wu in 1974. That year also saw The Chinese University of Hong Kong conferring an Honorary Doctor of Arts degree to the artist. In 2000, Wu began making generous donations of his masterpieces to public museums both in China and overseas. Even before that, the Hong Kong Museum of Art was privileged to have received two ink paintings from the artist in 1995, to be followed by twelve oil paintings, ink paintings and manuscripts in 2002. In 2009, Wu donated another thirty-three paintings mostly done between 2005 and 2009 to the Museum. Then in 2010, Wu donated five more paintings, including his last works, to the Museum.
  • Type: Oil on canvas

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