The 70's were considered the best period for Wu Guanzhong's oil paintings, most of these paintings are in small sizes for they were painted on site during Wu's travel, smaller sized canvas are convenient to carry around. He carried his painter's case and sketched wherever he go, he moved from place to place with his canvas stand, his case, and the painting, although it was hard during that time, but he had left truly fruitful artistic achievements from that period.
China art critic Shui Tianzhong noted We Guanzhong's achievements in Wu Guanzhong, An Explorer at the Turning Point of Chinese Ar t : "Wu rose as an exponent in oil. As an artist who has traveled overseas, he exemplified independent thinking. He progressed from strength to strength, even after he left college and art class and especially after he succeeded in freeing himself from "vulgar demands". This was rare, among overseas students of his day. He is an artist extraordinaire in his unrelenting display of Chinese elements in all his oil works. By the subject a countryside in northern China or a village in Jiangnan or a street in Paris or a scene in Southeast Asia, each piece is absolutely, unmistakably a painting in Chinese mood, a work of distinctive Chinese style." (Wu Guanzhong Paintings – A Selections of 128 Fine Works, L'Atelier Productions Pte, Ltd, Singapore, October 1996)
During the '70s, Wu traveled to Gui Lin, Guang Xi several times, "By the Li River" was finished during that time in 1976. Though he chronically lived in Beijing, but his hometown is at south, therefore his aesthetics and his paintings were deeply influenced by his preferences for Jiangnan's scenery. Wu Guanzhong praised: "The tiger hill, west lake, Li river, people appreciate the beauty of nature, and tender feelings will come from the mountain, the lake, the wind that blows in spring, and the willow."
Li river was famed for its scenery long ago, his precursor Li Keran also painted the Li river sceneries many times, in 1966, Li wrote: "Everyone thinks that Li river's scenery is best in the world, and I've been there three times, the place is truly beautiful, but it's hard to compose a picture. Therefore I used the traditional viewing small objects from a bigger standpoint method to paint it, when one stand on the river shore, he might never be able to see this scenery." What's wonderful about the Li river scenery is the change of lights and colors, as well as its surrounded by mountains, and the tranquility that is covered by trees. Li Keran's ink Li River is wellknown, and Wu Guanzhong knew that, therefore he said: "...there are already so many painters painted Gui Lin, with so many photographs made people familiar wi th Gui Lin al ready. But writer painters, photographers, generation after generation still continue to present the beauty of Gui Lin, different people, different views, the sensitivity of the creator is always renewing, ribbon of blue silk and hills lie like hairpins of green jade..." (Wu Guanzhong, compiled by Chen Rui Xia, Between Ugly and Beauty, Art or Die, Yuan Jing publications, May, 1990 1st edition, May 1997 2nd Edition, p. 185
"By the Li River" isn't necessary a realistic painting, in order to catch those beautiful sceneries, Wu used to carry the canvas stand and moved the painting spot for several times, he even walked for ten, twenty miles just to catch the best image and angle. His precursor Li Keran considers Li River beautiful, but hard to compose, Wu also had that specific experience. In "By the Li River", the painter presented the unique landscapes of Gui Lin, the mountain and water shared the same color, delicate and pretty, the dense green color afar is the bamboo forest, there are also small houses next to the river, formed a linear composition along the river, opposing the mountains from afar formed an interesting image. Modest boater stands on the boat, look at the afar, there is a sense of retrospective emotion inside the picure . Wu Guanzhong was born Yi Xing; Hangzhou is his cradle of art ; these Jiangnan sceneries often show up in his paintings. Each time he traveled south, the emotion of longing for home were unavoidable. "I am fond of depicting boats not only due to my childhood memory, but also because they give me a keen sense of visual comfort. There is as much aesthetic pleasure in a lonesome boat as in a whole group, and beauty in the fluttering of sails being set or taken down, the tangle of crisscrossing ropes and rigging, the dazzling display of masts and poles, both horizontal and vertical, intersecting lines against the canvas and amongst the fishermen's busy flurry of activity. The sheer motley of colors is a feast for the eye and a great opportunity for the artist the give free rein to his skills." (from 'Wu Guangzhong About this Art: Fishing Harbors') Through Wu's paint brush, he added humanistic concerns and his own aesthetic to the beautiful Li river.