Bonhams New York|20th Century Chinese Painting and Calligraphy|Auction Summary

At its 20th Century Chinese Painting and Calligraphy Sale, Bonhams New York recorded a sell-through rate of 69% and a sale total of around US$1.3m. The top three lots were paintings from Zhao Wangyu, Liu Guosong, and Gu Yuan, Yan Han and Wo Zha.

The top one is Returning in the Snow by Zhao Wangyun (1906-1977), which was sold for US$355,500 with buyer’s premium, far exceeding its estimate of US$25,000 – 40,000. In his early years, Zhao formed an art society with artists like Li Kuchan and later founded an illustrated magazine for anti-war purpose in the 30s. He excelled in landscape and figure paintings, especially in depicting the lives of working labours in Shanbei, China.

The second one is Which is Earth?D by Liu Guosong (also known as the Father of Modern Chinese Ink Painting), estimated at US$100,000 – 150,000 and fetched US$175,000 with buyer’s premium. During the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the United States launched the Apollo programme to carry humans to the Moon. Inspired by this programme, Liu created a series of works with a theme of Space to evoke viewer’s imagination of the universe. This painting is a work from the series.

Ranking on the third is a group of ten woodblock prints depicting the lives of peasants. Seven of the woodblock prints were created by Gu Yuan (1919-1996), two by Yan Han (1916-2011), and one by Wo Zha (1905-1973). Estimated at US$30,000 – 50,000, the group of woodblock prints was sold for US$156,250 with buyer’s premium. It has an interesting provenance that Mao Zedong gave it as a gift to Howard Hyman on 16 September in 1945. At that time, World War II was quickly coming to a close, and American Air Force Private First Class Howard Hyman was stationed in Chongqing. Hyman bought several cartons of American cigarettes as a goodwill gift for Mao. Mao reciprocated with an invitation to dinner and presented these woodcuts to Hyman.


Top Lots

Zhao Wangyun (1906-1977). Returning in the Snow. 1956. Framed and glazed, ink and colour on paper.

Lot no: 8012
Size: 104.8 x 73cm

  • Collection of Arthur Haffkin (1902-1991)
  • Private Collection, United Kingdom

Estimate: US$25,000 - 40,000
Price realized: US$355,500

Liu Guosong (Liu Kuo-sung, born 1932), Which is Earth? D, 1969. Mounted, framed and glazed, ink and colour with collage on paper.

Lot no.: 8034
Size: 76.8 x 155.6cm

  • Lee Nordness Gallery, New York
  • Laguna Beach Art Association, Laguna Beach, CA
  • New York Private Collection

Estimate: US$100,000 - 150,000
Price realized: US$175,000

Gu Yuan (1919-1996), Yan Han (1916-2011), Wo Zha (1905-1973), A Group of Ten Woodblock Prints

Lot no.: 8017
Size: 33 x 20cm

  • Gifted from Mao Zedong to Howard Hyman on September 16, 1945
  • Thereafter by descent

Estimate: US$30,000 - 50,000
Price realized: US$156,250

Auction Summary

Auction house: Bonhams New York
Sale: 20th Century Chinese Painting and Calligraphy
Sale no.: 24255
Auction date: 2017/9/11
Sale total: US$1,131,625
No. of lots: 48
Sold: 33
Unsold: 15
Average price per lot: US$34,291
Sell-through rate: 69%

(All prices realized have included buyer’s premium unless otherwise specified)