Nudes and Figures
In the exploration and development of the nude genre, Sanyu never lost sight of his Chinese sensibilities. His calligraphic virtuosity, literati-style lyricism, and expressive incorporation of Chinese motifs congealed into a unique artistic style built upon and enhanced by a modernist interpretation of current trends in art.
Sanyu’s still lives, especially his flowers, were a major portion of his life’s work. Sanyu used nostalgia to formulate his own idea of his country. For him this was encapsulated by the flourishing flowers of spring, which conjured endless reminiscences of richness and splendor, and also the flowers’ fading and the sadness and solitude that remained afterward, a silent desolation. --Jiang Xun
Animals were a constant presence in Sanyu’s life, appearing in paintings both early and late. The early animals portray single animals. . . that do not go much beyond the charming. It was only later in his life. . . that animals found their own special place as protagonists in Sanyu’s by then darker pictorial world. . . These compositions might possibly be a metaphor for the precariousness of existence that Sanyu knew well. --Jonathan Hay, “Sanyu’s Animals”, Sanyu: Language of the Body
Sanyu’s landscape paintings in particular articulate a lonely homelessness quite unlike the exuberance of his nudes. The dispersion of Eastern form in Western modern color and its existence in complexity hold within it the drifting of the modern soul. Here is the Baudelairean “flâneur”, drifting from China to homelessness in Paris.