Damrong Wong-Uparaj (Thai, 1936-2002) Traditional Houses on Stilts, 1962

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Lot 47
Damrong Wong-Uparaj
(Thai, 1936-2002)
Traditional Houses on Stilts, 1962

Sold for HK$ 875,625 (US$ 112,979) inc. premium
Damrong Wong-Uparaj (Thai, 1936-2002)
Traditional Houses on Stilts, 1962
signed and dated 'Damrong.W/1962', lower right.
tempera on canvas
85 x 102 cm. (33 1/2 x 40 1/8 in.)

Footnotes

  • 丹龍黃 泰國高腳屋 蛋彩畫布 一九六二年作

    PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN

    Provenance:
    Acquired directly from the artist
    Private Collection, USA
    Christie's Hong Kong, 30 November 2009, Lot 1162
    Acquired from the above by the present owner


    Having emerged onto the Thai artworld in the second half of the 20th century, Damrong Wong-Uparaj embodies the archetypal image of the modern Thai painter conscious of tradition, one who upholds the values of traditional Thai everyday life while competently working with Western imported methods of painting. The single question - what is constitutive of the essential character of modern Thai art? - preoccupied many artists working in the decade of the mid-1950s to the 1960s. Damrong's answer to this question lies in the idealised depiction of the Thai rural deployed through a modern palette.

    Seizing upon pictorial content that is distinctly Thai, and incorporating imageries evocative of a certain Thai-ness, Damrong sought to incorporate elements of the idealised folk and the tranquil and pristine rural in his work. Traditional Houses on Stilts is a fine example of the painter's desire. Damrong was not a mere observer interested in the precise and accurate depiction of rural life. Instead, his pictures build and reinforce the ideal of the idyllic rural. The clever configuration of the houses keeps the composition lively, as he did with Coconut Trees (1961), where the paintings' guiding lines are arranged to add depth and dynamism. His compositions combine observation and the creative freedom that imagination allows. Huts, foliage, and other signs of rural life are consciously planted in compositions that do not attempt to reflect a certain observed reality completely. In many of his canvases, Damrong consciously eliminated elements of modernisation that was creeping into Thai rural life back in the 1950s, retaining the essential quality of quietude and repose.

    The works of Damrong in the last couple of years in the 1950s are characterised by an elegant tranquillity and a romantic idealisation of village life. While a student in the Arts and Crafts School from 1954 to 1956 and later at Silpakorn University where he began studying from 1957, Damrong had been influenced by his study of the mature impressionist works of Sawasdi Tantisuk and Prayura Uruchadha. Even from that period, he had already expressed an interest in the combination of observation and imagination to render visible a landscape. Encountering the paintings of Tawee Nandakwang at Silpakorn University, he grew an interest as well as competency in landscape painting, but in a distinctly personal style away from the impressionistic style he had been exposed to. Traditional Houses on Stilts demonstrates the key qualities of works dated to the period of the 1950s, including the conspicuous absence of painted human figures which accentuates the sense of stillness and tranquillity. The thoughtful process in which Damrong worked in the fifties will be echoed in his paintings decades on, as seen in Ise Dai Jingu (undated, but presumably during the seventies in Japan), where the essential elements of quietude and serenity are retained.

    A comparison of Traditional Houses on Stilts to Fisherman Village (1960) which won a gold medal at the 1960 National Exhibition of Art yields us a useful observation of key aspects of Damrong's work. Silpa Bhirasri provides the following commentary, "Huts, boats, trees, earth or water are elements related perfectly to each other and all of them related to space. In beholding these landscapes we feel our spirit restored and have the illusion to live in the very heart of Thailand and among Thai people".
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