Peinture à l'huile
Besides animals and nudes, flowers were one of Sanyu’s favourite subjects. This type of floral composition, related both to the Chinese genre of bird-and-flower painting and the Western genre of still life, illustrates the profound stylistic renewal of his work between the 1930s and 1950s. In the 1940s, Sanyu dropped the simple round bouquets and fresh colours of his youthful works in favour of flowers in pots – lotuses, peonies and philodendrons – whose long stems served to create masterly compositions. Sanyu’s palette underwent a radical transformation as well, for it was now dominated by dark hues.
The painting White Peonies corresponds to this turning point. Exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris in 1954, its style is similar to that of several peony paintings in the National Museum of History in Taiwan. In this work, a light brown was applied over the ground, and then covered with a darker brown, except for a gap around the leaves and flowers. The cream-coloured petals were touched up with white.
These combined techniques created light effects that were previously absent in Sanyu’s work. This painting, which joined the collections of the City of Paris in 1963, is one of the rare acquisitions made by a public French institution during the artist’s lifetime.