In Paris, Xu is one of the first Asian artists and perhaps even the first Chinese artist to practice oil painting. He temporarily abandons the figurative Chinese themes to bring his personal vision of the ancient European painting. At that time his name is spelled Jupeon.
Xu rightly observed that Western mythology provides an excuse to show the nude in erotic positions. On April 3 in Hong Kong, Sotheby's sells a Sleeping Venus, oil on canvas 62 x 95 cm painted in Paris in 1920-1921 and signed in Chinese, lot 1034 estimated HK $ 40M.
The naked woman is lying on the grass in a lascivious attitude reminiscent of female positions by Courbet. The mythological inspiration for this ideal woman is confirmed by two little satyrs emerging away from a grove.
The mythological scenes painted by Xu in his Parisian period are extremely rare on the art market. A slave and lion of large size 123 x 153 cm painted in 1924 was sold for HK $ 54M including premium by Christie's on 26 November 2006. This work anticipates the highly original specialization of the artist after his return to China, using animals for the expression of fiery sentiments.
The female nudes by Xu are also very rare and eagerly sought. In June 2010 in Beijing, a small auction house sold for the equivalent of US $ 11.2M the standing nude of a young woman thought to be Jiang Biwei who was Xu's wife in the 1920s. In September 2011, an artist recognized convincingly in this portrait a model who posed in the nude in a classroom in the 1980s.
SOLD for HK$ 47M including premium