Pioneering:Chinese Artists Abroad in France and Chinese Modern Art(1911-1949)

  • Dates:2019-01-12 - 2019-03-03
  • Location:2F,CAFA Art Museum
  • Opening:2019-01-12 10:00
  • Organizer(s): Central Academy of Fine Arts
  • Co-Organizer(s): CAFA Art Museum Long Museum
  • Chief Curator: FAN Di’an
  • Art Director: Su Xinping Zhang Zikang
  • Curator: Hongmei
  • Special Curator: Dong Song M. Philippe CINQUINI Liu Libin Jiang Mingyang

Details

A number of legendary art treasures “displayed” for the first time A number of historically-overlooked art masters “re-appeared” Over 50 art masters Nearly 200 masterpieces Learn about a period of history through an exhibition It was a lively history of modern Chinese art At the historical jun... More
A number of legendary art treasures “displayed” for the first time
A number of historically-overlooked art masters “re-appeared”
Over 50 art masters
Nearly 200 masterpieces
Learn about a period of history through an exhibition
It was a lively history of modern Chinese art
At the historical juncture of the transformation of Chinese art in the first half of the 20th century, the artists studying in France made up their minds to develop Chinese art from tradition to modernity. They thus became the forerunners and practitioners for cultural appeals of modern Chinese art and became the founders and pioneers of the shifting of Chinese art from tradition to modernity.
This exhibition, made up of the main display with three special studies, features more than 200 works by more than 50 French artists from over 40 public and private institutions as well as individuals. It is the largest-ever academic study on the phenomenon of artists studying abroad in the early 20th century in the form of exhibitions and publications. It is also a grand research exhibition of epoch-making and monumental significance that reviews the art history of modern Chinese art. It will set off a new wave of research on Chinese art in the early 20th century, resulting in the formation of new thinking points and the possibility of writing new art history. It is expected that this exhibition will respond well to the development of Chinese contemporary art and reflect on the essence of contemporary art and the possibility of future art in the digital and pictorial age.

Preface

In the long history of Chinese art history in the 20th century, the experience and artistic creation of a generation of Chinese artists who studied in France had played an essential role in the first years. In the situation of drastic social changes, they entertained great ambitions and travelled across the ocean to arrive in Paris, France, the art capital of the world. They feared no hardships and strived to explore, writing a significant chapter of history in the artistic exchanges between China and the West as well as the pioneering work of modern Chinese art. This exhibition is a presentation of the academic research and achievements of the Chinee artists studying in France. It focuses on their pioneering road full of creativity and legend through reviewing the history, which is of great academic value for the construction of a complete history of modern Chinese art.

When living in a foreign country, all the Chinese artists studying in France devoted themselves to study and research while overcoming the difficulties in life. In the face of the Western art culture system that was completely different from traditional Chinese art, they were highly motivated to learn Western modelling language and rules from a theoretical perspective, and also understood the historical context and intellectual system of Western art from a cultural point of view. In particular, they felt the importance of art for its functions in society, which were virtually condensed into their firm cultural belief and artistic mission.

When they returned to China, what they brought back were not only Western art and art education system and method, but also the passion and ideal of revitalizing Chinese art and art education. This group of artists had different learning points, as they not only focused on absorbing the historical experience and classic style of European art but also had a profound perception of the changes in European art in that era. Therefore, in their later artistic career, they had presented diversified concept orientations and styles. It is worth noting that more than one hundred of Chinese artists went to the same country but benefited from different ways, as they flourished in all kinds of art forms after returning to China, which fully reflects the strong ability of Chinese artists to absorb and transform world culture. It is just because of this kind of inclusive and tolerant artistic mind that Chinese art in the first half of the 20th century had taken on a new look, laying a solid foundation for the later development of Chinese art.

This exhibition is based on historical materials and academic studies of Chinese artists studying in France in the first half of the 20th century. The works on display come from the collections of a number of public and private art institutions in China and France. Although many works and documents cannot be recovered due to historical reasons, the main purport, content, and structure of the exhibition enable people to look at the modern value of Chinese art from the dynamic process of international art. In the transformation development of international art in the 20th century, Chinese art was closely related to Western art, but above all, it corresponded to the reality of China’s own development, and also emphasized responding to the new issues from the collision of Chinese and Western culture. A generation of art pioneers returned to the motherland and was dedicated to the cause of art education. It combined the advantages of Western art education with the needs of Chinese society for cultivating arts talents, and endeavored to inject them into Chinese educational tradition, forming new disciplinary and professional characteristics, especially the way of talents cultivation. The artistic exploration of all artists after returning to China was based on the cultural genes of China and the reality of local social life. They transformed the historical vision, ideas and values, and artistic techniques they had received overseas into the expression of Chinese themes and reality, and constantly explored Chinese style in the study of form language. This period of the history of Chinese art was also a course of Chinese aesthetic education. The cultural ideals of these Chinese artists also included the promotion of aesthetic education, that is, letting arts serve society and play the role of shaping beautiful souls. It was their deep cultural feelings and brand-new cultural ideas that interlace and integrate, forming the impetus to spread art to the public and implement art education in society. All these are essential representations and deep connotations of the modernity of Chinese art in the first half of the 20th century

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France, and the 100th anniversary of the work-study program in France. There is a long history of artistic exchange between China and France, a generation of Chinese artists studying in France had built a broad bridge for the cultural communications between the two countries, and they bloomed in both China and France as the seeds of culture. Today, as we move into a new era, the artistic and cultural exchanges between China and France have become richer and more diverse, owing to the valuable experience that history left for us. The road opened by these pioneers is extending into the future.

 

Chairman of Chinese Artists Association

Director of Central Academy of Fine Arts

Fan Di’an

January 2019


In the long history of Chinese art history in the 20th century, the experience and artistic creation of a generation of Chinese artists who studied in France had played an essential role in the first years. In the situation of drastic social changes, they entertained great ambitions and travelled across the ocean to arrive in Paris, France, the art capital of the world. They feared no hardships and strived to explore, writing a significant chapter of history in the artistic exchanges between China and the West as well as the pioneering work of modern Chinese art. This exhibition is a presentation of the academic research and achievements of the Chinee artists studying in France. It focuses on their pioneering road full of creativity and legend through reviewing the history, which is of great academic value for the construction of a complete history of modern Chinese art.

When living in a foreign country, all the Chinese artists studying in France devoted themselves to study and research while overcoming the difficulties in life. In the face of the Western art culture system that was completely different from traditional Chinese art, they were highly motivated to learn Western modelling language and rules from a theoretical perspective, and also understood the historical context and intellectual system of Western art from a cultural point of view. In particular, they felt the importance of art for its functions in society, which were virtually condensed into their firm cultural belief and artistic mission.

When they returned to China, what they brought back were not only Western art and art education system and method, but also the passion and ideal of revitalizing Chinese art and art education. This group of artists had different learning points, as they not only focused on absorbing the historical experience and classic style of European art but also had a profound perception of the changes in European art in that era. Therefore, in their later artistic career, they had presented diversified concept orientations and styles. It is worth noting that more than one hundred of Chinese artists went to the same country but benefited from different ways, as they flourished in all kinds of art forms after returning to China, which fully reflects the strong ability of Chinese artists to absorb and transform world culture. It is just because of this kind of inclusive and tolerant artistic mind that Chinese art in the first half of the 20th century had taken on a new look, laying a solid foundation for the later development of Chinese art.

This exhibition is based on historical materials and academic studies of Chinese artists studying in France in the first half of the 20th century. The works on display come from the collections of a number of public and private art institutions in China and France. Although many works and documents cannot be recovered due to historical reasons, the main purport, content, and structure of the exhibition enable people to look at the modern value of Chinese art from the dynamic process of international art. In the transformation development of international art in the 20th century, Chinese art was closely related to Western art, but above all, it corresponded to the reality of China’s own development, and also emphasized responding to the new issues from the collision of Chinese and Western culture. A generation of art pioneers returned to the motherland and was dedicated to the cause of art education. It combined the advantages of Western art education with the needs of Chinese society for cultivating arts talents, and endeavored to inject them into Chinese educational tradition, forming new disciplinary and professional characteristics, especially the way of talents cultivation. The artistic exploration of all artists after returning to China was based on the cultural genes of China and the reality of local social life. They transformed the historical vision, ideas and values, and artistic techniques they had received overseas into the expression of Chinese themes and reality, and constantly explored Chinese style in the study of form language. This period of the history of Chinese art was also a course of Chinese aesthetic education. The cultural ideals of these Chinese artists also included the promotion of aesthetic education, that is, letting arts serve society and play the role of shaping beautiful souls. It was their deep cultural feelings and brand-new cultural ideas that interlace and integrate, forming the impetus to spread art to the public and implement art education in society. All these are essential representations and deep connotations of the modernity of Chinese art in the first half of the 20th century

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France, and the 100th anniversary of the work-study program in France. There is a long history of artistic exchange between China and France, a generation of Chinese artists studying in France had built a broad bridge for the cultural communications between the two countries, and they bloomed in both China and France as the seeds of culture. Today, as we move into a new era, the artistic and cultural exchanges between China and France have become richer and more diverse, owing to the valuable experience that history left for us. The road opened by these pioneers is extending into the future.

 

Chairman of Chinese Artists Association

Director of Central Academy of Fine Arts

Fan Di’an

January 2019


Artworks

Photographs

Related essays

A Lively Recall of Pioneering Artists Aboard in France – Over 50 Excellent Artworks ...

2019-01-21



The grand exhibition “Pioneering: Chinese Artists Abroad in France and Chinese Modern Art (1911-1949)” is currently on display at CAFA Art Museum and attracts a large number of visitors. The exhibition news released from major media can be seen in the metro, bus, and airport so that people will not miss this brilliant exhibition. The exhibition presents over 200 works by more than 50 artists studying in France on an unprecedented scale, forming an energy field with a huge amount of information, which provides a platform for further discussion on the cultural value revealed by studying abroad or studying in France – a unique artistic phenomenon of Chinese art in the 20th century.

Every picture has a story. This article focuses on representative and story-like works that allow the audience to fell the charm of art more closely, and also clearly restore the figures and characters of those important artists. Then, please follow us……

The narrative structure of this main exhibition can be briefly summarized as two narrations of Chinese art modernity in the first half of the 20th century, that is “the modern pursuit of Realism with realistic concern” and “the modern pursuit of Formalism and Expressionism through the exploration of art ontology”.

 |The modern pursuit of Realism with realistic concern | 

In the early 20th century, Wu Rujiu, Wu Fading, and other students went to study in France and became the pioneers of “studying Western painting techniques” for Chinese oil paintings in the 20th century. They set up art societies and helped founding national and private art schools to promote a new style of painting theory and skill. “Society of Apollo”, “Peking University Painting Society”, “Association of Chinese Aesthetics” and other societies had become important battlefields for pioneering artists and made introducing Western realistic art become a boom, and formed the following trends of Realism.

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On entering the exhibition hall, the works of Xu Beihong, Wu Zuoren, Lu Sibai, and other artists – important spreaders of Western European academic realism, are presented on the walls. They found a modern way to improve traditional Chinese painting with the concept and techniques of western European academic Realism.

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Xu Beihong

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Xu Beihong, Yang Zhongzi Family, Oil on canvas, 59.5x79.5cm, 1928

This work was created by Xu Beihong when he was the director of the Art Department of the National Beiping University (Yang Zhongzi was the director of the Music Department in the same year). It is considered as the most classic work in Xue Beihong’s portrait paintings, using an academic technique between Classicism and Realism, such as the description of porcelain, table clothes and accessories, especially the face of the young boy, on which soft strokes rather than color blocks were employed. The models in the painting were Yang Zhongzi’s family, who established a deep friendship with Xu Beihong when Yang studied abroad. Their casual and relaxed gestures also indicated their familiarity with the artist. Xu Beihong created this family portrait for his good friend in turbulent times in 1928, showing their deep friendship. Also, the delicate strokes in the work reveal the artists’ sincerity.

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Xu Beihong, Old Woman, Oil on canvas, 34x26cm, 1922

Xu Beihong advocates the integration of Western realism into Chinese art education system, and the essence of his painting can be clearly seen in this work. While studying under Kampf, Xu Beihong often went to museums to copy paintings of the renowned Rembrandt, and his another portrait of the same old woman was selected for the French National Art Exhibition (salon) in the same year, demonstrating his high level of painting skill.


Wu Fading

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Wu Fading, Woman in Chi-pao, Oil on canvas, 94x63cm, 1920

Wu Fading was admitted to Beijing Translation School in 1903 to study economics and French. In 1911, he was selected by Henan province to study in France, where he learned law at first and changed his major to oil painting later and obtained the bachelor diploma of École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris. He had a good master of oil painting skills and a solid sketch foundation with a rigorous style. He was the first person to be sent by the government to study in France, and there were only five of his works has survived, two of which are displayed in this exhibition. This piece of work is a representative work of his large-scale works. It applied the technique of post-impressionist stippling with bright colors, remaining as a precious work representing the pointillism in the early stage of China.

Wang Rujiu

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Wang Rujiu, Portrait, Oil on canvas, 99x63.5cm, 1916

Wang Rujiu was a pioneer of the first generation of Chinese artists studying in France and also a “missing person” in the history of art. In today’s writings on modern history, it is rare to see his name. However, if you open the magazines and newspapers of the Republic of China, you will find that what you see “him” now is just a tip of the iceberg of the real Wang Rujiu.

He went to study in France to learn Western painting and then learned after the sculpture master Bourdelle, the student of the famous sculpture master Rodin, specializing in sculpture. This portrait painted in 1916 has a strong biographical nature. In the black background, the positive image of a male character is presented, and there are no unnecessary details in the picture. The artist depicted the facial expression of the figure with multiple layers of oil paint, just like a standard photo image. Comparing this painting with the work “Musician” created by Li Tiefu in 1918, we can find that both paintings have similarities in theme, structure and other aspects. The big contrast between the awareness of the artist’s name and his highly-completed works leads us to think that there is still a long way to go to sort out and discover the talents left unrecognized in the vast history of art. What was the reason behind such an excellent artist’s willingness to live in seclusion and remain unknown? What kind of life experience did he have in the second half of his life? It requires more materials, opportunities and time to answer these questions. Moreover, this “portrait” created in 1916 also provides more possibilities for scholars to discuss “the first person to create the Western painting in China”.


Wu Zuoren

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Wu Zuoren, Male Body, Oil on canvas, 150x80cm, 1931

Wu Zuoren (1908.11.3-1997.4.9) learned from Xu Beihong and participated in the southern revolutionary movement. In his early days, he majored in sketching and oil painting, and in his later years, he specialized in traditional Chinese painting, which unveiled a broad vision and had profound meanings. He combined Chinese and Western art with concise and accurate images, which made him become another leading figure in the Chinese art circle after Xu Beihong. This “Male Body” is one of Wu Zuoren’s works that won a gold medal when he studied in France. He went to study in France at public expense with the strong recommendation and help of Xu Beihong.

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Wu Zuoren, Boat Trackers, Oil on canvas, 150x100cm, 1933

This oil painting “Boat Trackers” is in contrast with the work “Barge Haulers on the Volga” by Repin of the Soviet Union. It shows deep effects of ink and oil, and the heavy emotion overflowed forces you to feel the miserable years and perceive the sufferings of the people at the bottom of society, which is very touching. The models in the painting were Wu Zuoren’s Russian classmates when he studied abroad.


Xie Touba

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Xie Touba, Purple flowers, Oil on canvas, 25x17.6cm,1931

Xie Touba’s works had won the first prize of the Academie Julian in Paris, France twice. He was one of the founding members of the Chinese Art Society in France and also the founder of the Art Department of Fujian Normal University. Xu Beihong commented that he is very talented; Lu Sibai used a thumbs-up gesture to praise his studying performance in Paris; Hu Shanyu once said that he painted very well! This art master who had been buried in history “comes into view again” in the “Pioneering” exhibition with this painting, in which the brushwork is free and flexible, with a bit of Romanticism. The primary colors of the picture are blue and purple, and the warm earth color of the background sets off the blooming flowers, creating a fully steady and elegant atmosphere of the Neo-classicism academia school. If you observe it carefully, you will discover that Xie Touba harmoniously merged red blocks into the dark tone in the foreground, which can be called the stroke of Genius, vivid yet modest, distinct yet humble, tranquil and meaningful.

 

Guo Yinglin

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Guo Yinglin, copied “Playing the Piano”, Oil on canvas, 147.5x114.5cm, 1932

Guo Yinglin was born in Indonesia in 1898, and when he was six years old, he came back to China with his father. He had studied subsequently in Jimei Teachers College, Jimei Middle School and Nanjing National Jinan University, specializing in Teaching. In 1927 (one said 1928), Guo Yinglin went to study in France. According to Mr. Xie Touba, President of Fujian

Art Association after studying abroad in France, Guo Yinglin became the first Chinese student who won the school award after he was admitted to École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris. In 1934, Chang Shuhong, who went by the pseudonym “Jiang Niao”, wrote in an article published in the art magazine “Yi Feng” that Guo was the best student among his classmates and this article also proved that Guo Yinglin was one of the founding members of the Chinese Art Society in France. In 1933, after returning to China, Guo Yinglin was employed to teach in the Department of Western Painting of Xiamen Art School. Together with Xie Touba, Zhou Bichu and other colleagues, he became a promoter of developing Western painting in Xiamen and even Fujian area. In July 1937, Guo Yinglin went to Nanyang area and participated in the organization of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. The establishment of the school set up a typical example of the extension of China’s modern art education system to overseas in the early 20th century. Guo Yinglin’s existing works are mainly large-scale paintings he copied during his stay in France.


Lv Sibai

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Lv Sibai, Courtyard, 100x80cm, 1942

This work is a crucial representative work of Lv Sibai that earned him the title of “pastoral painter”. The “Courtyard” depicts a relatively real scene of the rural family’s courtyard, leading people to enjoy the natural beauty. The whole picture wears a gray-green tone, without too much color genre used, and the steady hue makes the image bright, vivid and harmonious, full of the flavor of rural life.


Tang Yihe

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Tang Yihe, Sketching in Jiangji I, Oil on canvas, 38x47cm, 1941

12.jpg Tang Yihe, Sketching in Jiangji II, Oil on canvas, 33.5X45cm, 1941

Tang Yihe went to France in 1993 and studied oil painting with Lawrence at École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris. After returning to China in 1934, he had been engaged in art education. In the early days of the Anti-Japanese War, he drew anti-war propaganda posters and received great social effects. The two landscape paintings go on display for the first time in this exhibition, showing a sense of eternal order and rich layering.

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With the outbreak of the Anti-Japanese War, more and more artists studying in France had walked out of the ivory tower and headed to the western China to know about the livelihood of people in the western region and explore the treasure of Buddhist art, which they integrated with their studying abroad experience and discovered a path of new realism that shows concern for people’s living and emphasizes the national spirit.

 

Chang Shuhong

Chang Shuhong was an outstanding figure who made achievements in painting, archaeology and many other fields. As a pioneer travelling to France, Chang Shuhong studied in France from 1927 to 1936. His rigorous and realistic painting skills not only brought him the first prize in the graduation exhibition of the Lyon Academy of Fine Arts and the first place in Lawrence’s studio but also won him three gold medals and two silver medals in Lyon and Paris’s salons. His works are still collected at the Centre Pompidou and the Lyon Academy of Fine Arts. In addition to studying Western painting, Chang Shuhong was also inspired by the sinologist Pelliot and the picture book of Dunhuang Caves. After back to China, he organized the Dunhuang Art Institute with Zhang Daqian, Liang Sicheng, Xu Beihong and had served as the director since 1944. Then, in the following forty and fifty years, Chang Shuhong had been dedicated to preserving and studying the relics of the grottoes, which made Dunhuang Studies receive excellent reviews worldwide and gained him the title of “Guardian of Dunhuang”.

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Chang Shuhong, Mass Bombings in Chongqing, Oil on canvas, 79x63.8cm, 1938-1942

The “Mass Bombings in Chongqing” was created between 1938 and 1942, when Chang Shuhong was in Chongqing after his return from aboard and before his appointment to Dunhuang. At that time, the Sino-Japanese War was in a stalemate, and in order to force China to surrender, Japan launched five and a half years of high-altitude bombing of Chongqing. The artist witnessed the war and recorded his experience in the painting. This work depicts a family of four, Chang Shuhong himself, his wife Chen Zhixiu, his daughter Chang Shana and his son Chang Jialing, escaping in panic in the bombing. Contrary to the artist’s usual elegant and delicate style, this painting is bold and straightforward in brushwork, presenting a messy image of the war after the bombing. It participated in the exhibition tour of “the Anti-War Art in China” organized by American Museum of Modern Art after its completion and received widespread attention. Starting from the personal experience of the painter, “Mass Bombings in Chongqing” awakens the viewers’ painful experience for the war. It can be regarded as a Chinese version of “Guernica” with its appeal without national boundaries, shaking people’s hearts until today. It can be proved that in addition to national significance, this work also has undeniable value in the world history of art.

 

Si Tuqiao

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Si Tuqiao, Setting Horses, Oil on canvas, 97.5×222cm,1955

Si Tuqiao graduated from Yenching University Divinity School in 1926 and went to France to study in 1928 and 1930. Lu Xun admired his early works and praised him as “an artist with a bright heart”. As an art giant as contemporary artists like Xu Beihong, Si Tuqiao had already been well-known in Chinese art circle in the 1930s. In 1943, the 40-year-old Si Tuqiao found no way to achieve the ideal of serving the country and determined to go to Xinjiang to sketch. He once wrote a sentence in “Xingdi Road” that “Just like a rapid arrow shooting out of the earth, I went from Central Plains to Xinjiang”. The encounter with Xinjiang in this period can be considered as a turning point of Si Tuqiao’s artistic creation. Si Tuqiao loved horses, but only upon his arriving at Xinjiang, he started to treat them as “close relatives”. When he was painting horses in Yili area, he said that he felt overwhelmed with the upsurge of emotion and thus liberated his free and unstrained artistic personality. Countless viewers have been deeply touched by the exciting scene of setting horses.

 

Han Leran

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Han Leran, Carpet Market, Oil on canvas, 196.8x150.5cm, 1945

He Leran was not only an artist but also the first member of the Communist Party in the art circle, an underground worker in charge of the united front work. Besides, Han Leran was also a scholar and the first person to systematically excavate, study, and sort out the historical and cultural literature of Kizil Grottoes. His triple identities compromised his short but legendary life. He graduated from Shanghai Art School in his early years and went to École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris for further study. He was one of the first Chinese painters traveling in Europe to combine traditional culture with artistic creation and advocated the integration of painting and archaeology. He did much pioneering work for the preservation of ancient culture and art. Chang Shuhong once mentioned in his article “A Memory of Painter Han Leran” that Han raised some good ideas on the work of the Thousand Buddha Caves, and we expected each other to carve out a field for the revival of Chinese art in the desert. The primary theme of Han Leran’s existing artworks is the description of the working life and customs of the people of different ethnic groups in northwest China by oil paintings or watercolors. The “Carpet Market” displayed in this exhibition is the largest one of his works, and the audience can feel the artistic charm of Han Leran from a very close distance.

 

Wang Ziyun

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Wang Ziyun, The Qiantang River, Oil on canvas, 56X74cm, 1928-1930

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Wang Ziyun, A Small Town in the Morning, Oil on canvas, 59.5x72cm, 1928

Wang Ziyun had multiple roles. He was the forerunner of the Chinese new art movement, the pioneer of modern art archaeology as well as an art historian and sculptor. He compiled The History of Chinese Sculpture Art in his later years which filled in the blank of Chinese sculpture studies. He studied in France from 1930 to 1937 and graduated from École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris. At that time, his works had already entered the most official art circles in France, such as art salons held in Spring and Autumn, and other independent salons. In 1953, the French edition of the Dictionary of Art and Artists included a Chinese and his work for the first time – it referred to Wang Ziyun and his oil painting “Rain of Hangzhou”, which proved that he had already been an artist having an influence in the world at the time. However, in 1937, when the Anti-Japanese War began, Wang Ziyun left Paris and returned to China to work as a professor at Hangzhou National College of Art. His daughter Wang Qian once asked him, “Paris is so good. Why came back?” Mr. Wang Ziyun replied after some thoughts, “if your courtyard is on fire, can you bear to stay as a guest in someone else’s home?” In that era, a large number of patriotic scholars returned to China from Europe and America to practice “saving China through culture”. The works on display are “A Small Town in the Morning” and “The Qiantang River”, two of Wang Ziyun’s only existing oil paintings as the rest were all burned during the war. “A Small Town in the Morning” has a strong expressionist style, and it can be seen that it is mainly influenced by Impressionism and Fauvism, and at the same time, integrates some techniques and features of Chinese painting.

 

Qin Xuanfu

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Qin Xuanfu, The View of Mount Emei

In 1946, China just stepped out of the shadows of the Anti-Japanese War and was in a state of devastation waiting for rebuilding. At the beginning of this year, Qin Xuanfu travelled to Mount Emei in Chengdu to sketch and “The View of Mount Emei” was the result, belonging to the early “Sichuan landscape” series. From the time of staying in Paris to the founding of new China, there were only more than 30 paintings of Qin Xuanfu left. Given the background of that time with displaced lives and material shortages, it is really grateful to have such a large painting survived to today.

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Yan Wenliang

In the history of Chinese modern art education, Yan Wenliang was one of the four art educators as famous as Xu Beihong, Liu Haisu, and Lin Fengmian. In the autumn of 1928, Yan Wenliang went to study in France and was enrolled at École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris one year later. His pastel paintings “Kitchen” created during studying won the honorable prize of French Spring Salon. During the three years of staying in France, Yan Wenliang purchased a large number of plaster figures and catalogues for Suzhou Art College, most of which were famous works from the period of ancient Greece, Rome, and the Renaissance. He bought nearly 500 pieces in all, which was the total number of plaster figures owned by all art colleges and universities in China at that time. In 1931, after studying in Paris, Yan Wenliang returned to Suzhou Art College after three years’ absence. In the autumn of 1932, the new campus of Suzhou Art College with Greek building style was completed, equipped with more than 50 rooms including classrooms, showrooms and plaster rooms, which became the largest scale in China. Yan Wenliang applied the education mode of Western colleges in China and advocated the artistic practice of sketching, color, and perspectives to achieve an accurate image, making Suzhou Art College led by him the birthplace of Chinese modern art and classical painting style.

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Yan Wenliang, Huangpu River

The “Huangpu River” was expressed through ways of scumbling, thin paste, thick paste, rubbing, pattern, sweeping, covering and flapping paste. The yellow rays of the sunlight reflected on the river surface collide with purple shadows, freely yet orderly, constructing a busy and lively scene of the Huangpu River.

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Yan Wenliang, Winter

The “Winter” was created in the 1970s and belonged to one of his later outstanding works. It is not as detailed as the previous landscape paintings that are fascinated with the expression of various color changes and complex and deep description under natural light. Instead, it gets rid of redundancy for simple composition and contains strong connotations of Chinese tradition.

 

Dong Xiwen

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Dong Xiwen, A Young Beggar, Oil on canvas, 100x80cm, 1947

Dong Xiwen was born in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province in 1914, and his father, Dong Huiqing, was a famous local connoisseur of cultural relics. The good cultural atmosphere of his family had developed his love for painting at an early age. In 1932, Dong Xiwen was admitted to the Department of Civil Engineering of Hangchow University, but in the second year, he borrowed 30 yuan from his sister and secretly enrolled in Suzhou Art College, where he studied oil painting with Yan Wenliang and some incumbent French teachers. Due to homesick, he entered into Hangzhou National College of Art in 1934 and learned after Lin Fengmian, Pan Tianshou, and other famous teachers. After graduating from the art college in 1939, he was selected by the school to go to study in the branch school of École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris in Hanoi, Vietnam. Although Dong Xiwen didn’t go to France, he received professional education in Western oil painting, which directly influenced his painting art. While accepting the techniques of European classical painting, he also blended his familiar Chinese painting skill – line drawing into his creation. His portrait paintings employed the artistic language and expression methods of Western oil painting, with extremely high skills in realistic painting. However, the work “A Young Beggar” completely presents a quite western modern style that is different from the previously used pure realism.

 

Huang Jueshi

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Huang Jueshi, Scenery

Huang Jueshi was also an outstanding artist studying in France who was forgotten by history. He studied under Yan Wenliang and was one of the first graduates of Suzhou Art College. From 1934 to 1936, recommended by Yan Wenliang, he went to Europe to study and was accepted to École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris, and then joined Tan Wangpei’s studio. He was also the first director of Suzhou Art Museum, the first art museum in China. In the face of such a complex artistic environment of the art circle in Paris in the 1930s, Huang Jueshi had never changed his stance or deviated from Realism. From the picture, we can see that based on the spirit of Realism, Huang Jueshi paid more attention to lyrical and poetic expression. Perhaps influenced by Impressionism, he preferred to depict objects with light and shadow rather than brush strokes, which can be found from the fact that most of his works are about landscapes.

 

Zeng Yilu

Zeng Yilu was an early Chinese artist traveling in France and was also a member of the Chinese Democratic League. Back in 1918, Zeng Yilu had already attended the Xinmin Institute founded by Mao Zedong and Cai Hesen. Encouraged by Mao Zedong, he went to study in France and was admitted to École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris. “My brother is engaged in painting very well. I hope he can study hard and make great achievements.”, which is what Mao Zedong encouraged his brother and friend Zeng Yilu in his letter. In January 1924, Zeng Yilu and Wu Dayu, Lin Fengmian, Wang Daizhi, Li Jinfa, Lin Wenzheng, and other artists organized and launched the “Hopps Society” in Paris, with Cai Yuanpei serving as the honorary president, and it held the faith of creating vibrant artworks for Chinese people.

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Zeng Yilu, Xihuang Temple Qingjing Huacheng Pagoda, Oil on canvas, 54.5x35.5cm, 1935

The two works by Zeng Yilu go on public display for the first time in this exhibition. Zeng Yilu was also an important artist studying in France who was neglected in the early years. He used paintings to express his pursuit of national revival and ideal life. The work “Xihuang Temple Qingjing Huacheng Pagoda” was created in 1935. With bright and clean colors, the main tower is shown solemn and beautiful by the artist. “Every scenery carries an affection.” In the 1930s in China, under the turmoil of warlords and the destruction of the country, Zeng Yilu in Beiping created such a painting to imply the long-standing glory and unyielding dignity of the Chinese nation.

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Zeng Yilu, Ancient Pines in Front of the Temple, Oil on canvas, 57.5x47cm, 1945

In the work “Ancient Pines in Front of the Temple”, Zeng Yilu used some elements of traditional Chinese art. In color, the earthy red makes the picture slightly show the charm of Dunhuang colors, while green, red and gray constitute an elegant, comfortable and traditional image. In the perspective of Composition, the pursuit of a “flat” sense of picture gives them full expressiveness. Moreover, the painting method of the writing style reflects more the cultural tradition of Chinese elements. When painting the tree pines below and the distant scenery in the picture, the painter used a summarized and generalized form to depict; while for the branches of the nearby pine tree, he shaped it with fluent brushwork, thus highlighting the flexibility and roughness of the main object pine tree as well as its rich variations. At the same time, in the treatment of light, he combined with the techniques of Western impressionism, making the whole picture unified in a moderate color tone.

 

Li Chaoshi

29.jpg Li Chaoshi, Pomegranate, Pastel on paper, 36.1x46.9cm, 1952

Li Chaoshi, known as the first Chinese pastel painter, went to France to study on a work-study basis in 1912 and graduated from École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris in 1919. Li Chaoshi was an important artist who studied aboard in France and also one of the oil painters of the old generation in China. His works dealt with subjects like flower, scenery, vegetable, and fruit, and he had never gone with the tide or changed his style easily but wished to follow his true heart, which in return revealed a kind of tranquility and sweetness in simplicity with a strong flavor of life.

 

Li Fengbai

Li Fengbai was a very active artist studying in France in his early years. Many scholars knew his name but had no chance to see his works. His life was full of twists and turns, and he once had three different identities: artist, revolutionist, and translator. He Shuheng, one of the five old revolutionists in China, was Li Fengbai’s primary school teacher and also the person guiding him to the road of revolution. It was under the recommendation of teacher He that he was able to get acquainted with the young Mao Zedong. In 1920, he actively responded to the call of Mao Zedong to study in France under a work-study basis. In 1924, he was accepted to École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris, where he and his classmates such as Lin Fengmian and Wu Dayu jointly established “Apollo Society”, which was later renamed as “Overseas Art Movement Society”. In the summer of that year, an exhibition of Chinese Art was held in France and attracted international attention to Chinese art for the first time. In 1929, he was invited by Lin Fengmian to come back to China and worked as a professor and director of the Department of Western Painting at Hangzhou National College of Art. In 1933, he went to France again to continue the study of art. After the founding of new China, Li Fengbai went through a transformation for the third time. At the request of Zhou Enlai, he returned to China with his wife, Denise Lebreton in 1953. He worked in the Foreign Language Press and participated in the translation of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China. Then in 1954, he served as the French interpreter for the Chinese delegation at the Geneva Conference.

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Li Fengbai, Portrait of Denise Lebreton, Oil on canvas, 44.5×54cm, 1939, private collection

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Li Fengbai, Portrait of Denise Lebreton, Oil on canvas, 60×81cm, 1937, private collection

It was also quite dramatic that Li Fengbai could return to the spotlight. Many years ago, in the attic of an old antique shop in the 93rd district of Paris, Jiang Fan, a painter travelling in France, happened to find a big painting folder that had been untouched for a century. There were hundreds of oil paintings and watercolor paintings inside the folder, and after wiping off the thick dust on the folder, the signature of a Chinese painter appeared – Li Fengbai. Compared with his well-known classmates, Li Fengbai’s paintings are not as skillful as that of Lin Fengmian, nor as bold and abstract as that of Wu Dayu, but they are well-coordinated, with bright colors, refined and free strokes, which can be felt fully in his portrait paintings. Some people say that watching Li Fengbai’s works is like reading Hemingway or Carver’s novels. The form is simple, but the content is rich and profound, leaving a lasting aftertaste. Just a week before Mr. Li’s death, he wrote a poem, “what I have learned departed from practice without achievements, but I only wished to be a small screw, do not be surprised to find the gray hair on my head, as you see the snow and ice will cover on the green hills.” His open-minded attitude stands vividly from these words. It is just because of Li Fengbai’s noble character that we should not let his artist attainments be buried. We hope that the presentation of this exhibition can make him get academic and market recognition.

 

Xiao Shufang

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Xiao Shufang, Eiffel Tower

Xiao Shufang (1911-2005) was a former professor at Central Academy of Fine Arts, and as the wife of the famous painter Wu Zuoren, she was often overshadowed by Wu Zuoren’s reputation. Also, she won the top at a northern China figure skating competition, gifted in many ways. Xiao Shufang studied traditional Chinese painting from Wang Shensheng, Tang Dingzhi, Qi Baishi, and others. In 1926, she entered Beiping Art School to study Western painting with Xu Beihong. In 1937, she went to Europe for further study. She was known for her flower paintings and excelled at painting landscape, still life, portrait and so on. Her painting “Eiffel Tower” is an oil painting completed with only a few strokes yet is thought-provoking. In the highly generalized picture, she combined the advantages of both Chinese and Western painting techniques, with bright colors and fresh atmosphere making the work unique.

 

Lei Guiyuan

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Lei Guiyuan, Reform of Landlords Through Labour, Oil on canvas, 53x64cm, 1950

In the history of Chinese modern design and arts & craft, Lei Guiyuan (1906-1989) was a distinguished theorist and practitioner who made outstanding achievements and had a vision of art history. As a leading master in pattern design circle, Lei Guiyuan’s oil paintings are rarely seen. There are three of his works on display this time and the most important representative work is “Reform of Landlords Through Labour”, in which the space formed by the close and distant view shows a rich laying, and the characters look mellow and vivid.

 

Tang Yunyu

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Tang Yunyu, Slack Season, Oil on canvas, 80x100cm, 1950

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Tang Yunyu, Seascape, Oil on canvas, 39x46cm, 1930

Speaking of female painters in the Republic of China, many people must have heard of Pan Yuliang, but don’t know there is another “Yu” lady in the same period, that is Tang Yunyu, together with Pan Yuliang, was referred to as two top female painters of the early Chinese oil painting. Tang Yunyu and her husband Zheng Kuiyi met in Japan, and later they went to Paris together to study. Zheng Kuiyi recalled in an article that when they first arrived in Paris – the capital of art, Tang Yunyu showed great interest in painting art. “After arriving in Paris, she went to the Louvre Museum to copy paintings every day. At noon, she ate bread to satisfy her hunger; in the evening, she learned to sketch in an atelier. She was soon admitted to École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris to study orthodox oil painting with professor Lebe and Sabah…… hoping to reach the artistic realm.” Tang Yunyu was good at portrait and scenery. Her works are changeable and novel in composition with peaceful and quiet colors. We can see her broad mind and vision as well as an extraordinary manner from her paintings.

 

Liu Ziming

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Liu Ziming, Self-portrait

Liu Ziming (1927 – 2014.1.18) lost hearing at an early age, so she called herself Ziming. In 1946, she dropped out from National Beiping Art School and went to France in 1949 to study painting at Academie de la Grande Chaumiere and École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris. Four of her paintings consecutively entered the Paris Salon of French Artists and Paris Autumn Salon. She is the last artist to appear in this “Pioneering” exhibition. This work is a self-portrait of her and had been hung in her living room for a lifetime.

 

|The modern pursuit of Formalism and Expressionism through the exploration of art ontology|

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In the first half of the 20th century, many artists had explored art ontology language one after another and emphasized the expression of individuality, which presented a new modern art atmosphere of developing artists’ personal style, including Hangzhou’s “Art Movement Association” that took Lin Fengmian and other artists studying in France as the core members, “Storm Society” with Pang Xunqin being an essential figure, and a group of art fighters represented by Liu Haisu who determined to break the limits.

 

Liu Haisu

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Liu Haisu, Sacred Heart Church in Paris, Oil on canvas, 73x60cm, 1931

Liu Haisu (1896-1994) was from Changzhou, Jiangsu province. He was a prominent modern painter and art educator. Throughout his life of art education and creation process, Liu Haisu’s early years of studying abroad in France was undoubtedly a crucial turning point in his life. At first, Liu Haisu liked realistic art, and later, when he came to contact with Western Impressionism and Expressionism, he began to develop towards Expressionism as he thought it was quite consistent with traditional Chinese freehand brushwork painting. The “Sacred Heart Church in Paris” shows a strong expressionist style. The long overlapping lines and the red-green tone in the outdoor light make the whole picture always stay flowing, surging with full enthusiasm of Van Gogh style. Whether it was the buildings and trees on both sides of the street, or the people walking in the middle of the street, the painter kept the main features of the objects through a brief outline of the brush strokes and discarded the redundant lines, seeming messy yet catching the essence.

 

Lin Fengmian

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Lin Fengmian, Recalling, Tempera

Lin Fengmian’s “Recalling” created in 1920 is a tempera work and was firstly included in the book Beauty of Body republished by Guanghua Bookstore in 1929. In Lin Fengmian’s early creation, it is a very rare work depicting the woman in a realistic way. Through comparative studies, scholars have concluded that the model in the painting was Lin Fengmian’s wife in France. This work was completed by Lin Fengmian in the imagination, expressing his deep yearning for his wife. Nearly a hundred years later after the creation, this work has returned to the overall vision of the development of Chinese modern art, which has filled in the major gap in the sequence and historical research data of Lin Fengmian’s works at present.

7.jpg Lin Fengmian, Beautiful Lady, Colored ink on paper, 75x73cm

In this work, the lines used by Lin Fengmian rarely show the shadow of traditional literati paintings and his expression techniques and painting styles are concise and straightforward, using few strokes to deliver a richer connotation.

 

Wu Dayu

1551494395675791.jpg Wu Dayu, Jing Rhyme, Oil on board, 64x45cm 1950

 

Wu Dayu (1903-1988) was from Jiangsu province and went to France to study Western painting and sculpture from 1922 to 1927. At that time, academic art was still the style of École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris, and it was also a period when the Paris painting world was most influenced by Cezanne as well as other modern painting styles such as Fauvism, Cubism and Abstractionism. Wu Dayu’s oil paintings usually present a Chinese style of color and light effect with the techniques of French Impressionism. “Shixiang (momentum and image), Guangse (light and color), and Yundiao (rhyme and tone)” are creative vocabularies used exclusively on Wu Dayu. “Guangse” refers to the understanding of color, “Yundiao” means the grasp of the artistic charm of the work, and “Shixiang” is a kind of irresistible grand momentum shown on the basis of “Guangse” and “Yundiao”. In 1940, the presentation of “Shixiang” also became an important symbol of Wu Dayu’s exploration of abstract art. Wu Dayu created abstract artworks that could rival contemporary Western masters, and built his own complete art system, filling in a long-term blank in the history of Chinese modern art with his own art history.

 

Wu Guanzhong

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Wu Guanzhong, Autumn in Aiwan Pavilion, Oil on canvas, 94x55cm, 1970

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Wu Guanzhong, Snow of Beijing, Oil on canvas, Oil on canvas, 100x90cm, 1994

In 1946, with excellent performance, Wu Guanzhong earned the opportunity to study in Paris, France at public expense, which opened the door to his art world. He originally planned to make a great career in France and never return to the homeland. However, by chance, he saw what Van Gogh wrote to his brother, “you might say, there are flowers in Paris, and you can also blossom and bear fruit. However, you are the wheat, and your place is in the wheat field. Only by planting in the soil of home, can you take root and sprout. Don’t be self-contained and waste your life in Paris.” It was this sentence that deeply woke up Wu Guanzhong when he was indulging in the bustling world. In 1949, the news of the founding of new China reached France, and Wu Guanzhong resolutely set foot on the journey home. Before the returning, he wrote to his teacher Mr. Wu Dayu, “The study of art is not in Europe, not in Paris, and not in the studio of the masters, but in the motherland, in hometown, and in my heart. I will go back home and start from scratch.” All these stories and their patriotic spirit as well as respecting moralities let us pay deep respect to these predecessors.

 

Fang Junbi

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Fang Junbi, Beginner’s Mind, Oil on canvas, 129.5x96.5cm, 1961

There exist only few Fang Junbi’s oil paintings and most of which are ink paintings. It is really precious that this exhibition displays five oil paintings of him at the same time. The “Beginner’s Mind” is a portrait painting that Fang Junbi was most good at, and it depicts two monks standing side by side and performing the ritual of Buddha, with their peaceful expression making people refreshing. Among them, the elder one was the eminent Japanese monk, Suzuki Shunryu, who was the first major Japanese monk to introduce Zen to the Western world and had moved to San Francisco, the United States in the 1950s. At this time, Fan Junbi also lived in the United States, and a chance encounter led him to listen to Suzuki’s class and thus forged a good friendship with him. Fang Junbi painted two portraits of Suzuki altogether, and this one is the larger one. The painter successfully captured the charm of the two monks through drawing lines of Chinese painting. Also, the use of large color blocks, thick colors and clear contrast in the picture result in a glamour of oriental culture.

 

Zhou Bichu

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Zhou Bichu, Indonesia Volcanic Field, Oil on canvas, 73x100cm, 1954

Zhou Bichu believed that we should love life, explore the secrets of nature, and discover the beauty and artistic taste from life and nature, so as to apply them into creation. In his works, he blended in the elements of dots and lines of Chinese painting, drew on the charm of Chinese painting, and combined them with oil painting skills, so that people could feel the tranquility and deep conception, which also helped him form his own unique artistic style.

In the “Indonesia Volcanic Field”, he demonstrated his good master of color being leisurely and full of personality. He didn’t use strong contrasting colors, nor did he emphasize light and shadow, instead, he paid attention to reducing the relations of color levels and adjusted the subtle differences between the intermediate colors so that the viewers could feel the brightness under the sun visually. Meanwhile, the overall grey tone creates a hazy atmosphere full of tiny droplets in the air and delivers the delicate environmental and climatic characteristics of the local place, revealing his supreme skills. In terms of brushwork, the short and distinct strokes are contrasted with the color blocks for highlighting some parts and forming a tension of the layers.

 

Hu Shanyu

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Hu Shanyu, Canna, Oil on canvas, 65x54.3cm, 1942

Hu Shanyu was admitted to Hangzhou National College of Art in 1929, and before the graduation, he soon entered École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris for further study due to his outstanding talent. He studied under famous painters Rosian Simon and Gustave Moreau who had inherited the academic school of painting and made significant achievements in the last century. His oil paintings of portrait and still life were once selected for the Paris Salon. For many years, he had concentrated on the study of the fine tradition of Western European oil painting and was obsessed with the national aesthetic and artistic techniques of Oriental characteristics for presenting the colorful life. The most excellent part of his work is “Western form, Oriental charm”, as he dared to use pink and white color to build a space and used to leave a part to draw lines in elaborate colors. With vivid and simple artistic language, rich and bright color, and meaningful and elegant conception, his painting has distinctive characteristics. Xu Beihong once said, “A painter with an excellent grasp of color is rarely seen”, and Hu Shanyu can be called “A master of color language”. Hu Shanyu was very particular about the use of color. He once made his own pigments and studied and summarised the rules of using color. He believed that every color in the painting should not be isolated. In the “Canna”, Hu Shanyu’s essence of using color is embodied to the extreme. This painting was created in 1942 and was a very exquisite still life masterpiece among his early works.

 

Huang Xianzhi

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Huang Xianzhi, Cherries in White Background, Oil on canvas, 1963

In 1929, Huang Xianzhi was admitted to Huangzhou National College of Art to study Western painting. In the spring of 1931, he went to Paris to study abroad at his own expense. Regarding Huang Xianzhi’s oil painting style, it stresses the layout and has a profound artistic conception; the objects were shaped precisely and vividly; also, it pays attention to the overall effect of large blocks of color, with rich and delicate changes, showing exquisite techniques and lasting visual enjoyment. Huang Xianzhi believed that the placing of objects was the key to still life painting, and it needed repeated thinking and trying to best reflect the artistic conception of the objects. Therefore, every time before painting, Huang Xianzhi would spend quite a lot of time and energy to study objects and think about how to place them. Looking at his paintings can let people always feel a distinct thematic rhythm and a whole picture, instead of a messy impression of “piecing things together”. 

The “Cherries in White Background” was created in 1963 and was one of Huang Xianzhi’s satisfied works. This one uses the perspective of looking down to present a simple and refreshing picture with slightly-colored white background, white porcelain, and red cherries. The fruits overflowing from the white porcelain plate spread all over the picture, bringing the audience joyful feelings of harvest and sweetness. The background of the work resembles the table for still life painting yet is also similar to the white space of Chinese painting, which obviously drew on the white ground of Chinese painting, called “Leaving white space for the black lines”. However, as for the oil painting that is good at expressing with color, other colors are as important as white color. Here, the “white background” is not a simple “blank” as it changes from “warm white” to “cold white” from the bottom up, creating a subtle and real spatial effect. Huang Xianzhi practiced his exploration for “the nationalization of oil painting” with “colored white”, expression of “between similar or not”, delicate “composition” of the picture, and even the “positive life spirit”.

 

Pang Xunqin

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Pang Xunqin, Son of the Earth, Watercolor on paper, 45×37.2cm, 1934

When it comes to Pang Xunqin’s painting art, it is often classified as Modernism art or decorative arts. Although when some scholars talk about Pang Xunqin’s integration of Chinese and Western art, they often refer to his later works. However, from the perspective of his painting art career as a whole, his combination of Chinese and Western painting has been generated since he was studying in France in the 1920s, and by the 1940s, it was developed mature with clear clues, without any doubt. The “Son of the Earth” is a piece of work that Pang Xunqin spent a few months to create when he felt touched by the drought happened in southern China, where the land cracked, and people lived in misery. It was also one of his most important representative works. According to Mr. Pang, the well-built couple in the painting is a symbol of China and the dying child is a metaphor for the Chinese people at that time. He adopted simplified and elongated body descriptions, large areas of flat painting, two-dimensional and decorative style to show the simplicity and strength.

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Pang Xunqin, A Tang Lady Doing Ribbon Dance, Watercolor on silk, 82.5×62cm, 1942

The work “A Tang Lady Doing Ribbon Dance” is a highlight of the exhibition, as many scholars have never seen the original before. His use of line drawing in the work was exquisite and lively, and his sublime skills reached to the point of perfection, which was appreciated by the art world at that time, known as “a natural beauty of art and a wonder in the art world”. Fu Lei, who specialized in art criticism when studying abroad in France, raved about the work, “Xunqing’s line drawing contains oriental temperament, is one of the best of contemporary line drawing.”

 

Zhang Xian

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Zhang Xian (1893-1936), along with Lin Fengmian, Xu Beihong and others successively, went to study in France at their own expense in the early 1920s, and he was admitted to École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris to study Western painting. Later, he and Ni Yide and others founded “Storm Society”, expressing their disgust with all the old forms, old colors, and that they would use new ideas and techniques to present the spirit of the new era. In the 1930s, Zhang Xian was a rare figure in China, but now, few people have heard of his name. His works are simple in color and line but look very solid and steady. Because he had developed his own drawing skills with the pen, and when it was used in color painting, he could draw the whole object with a few strokes. In the impression of Pang Xunqin, “Zhang Xian has studied in France and after he came back, he mainly drew characters with the line drawing. His oil paintings of characters have pure colors and show his unique style. Personally, I appreciate his oil paintings of portraits, but he is known to very few people.” It is a good chance to see his only surviving six works in this exhibition.

Some Chinese artists studying in France had lived all their lives abroad, walking on the boundary of the exchanges between Chinese and Western culture. While blending themselves into the development of Western art, they also became the windows to display and promote Chinese art to the world. Through the exploration by several generations of artists studying in France, there opened up a way to combine Chinese and Western art, and thus enriched the dimension of modern art.

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Pan Yuliang 

Pan Yuliang’s oil paintings, whether it is bearing, culture or techniques, are unmatched among the early female oil paintings in China. Her painting style is basically based on the impressionist technique of playing natural lights and then integrated with her feelings and talents, so her paintings are not affected or delicate but reveal a sense of fortitude, and neat strokes and bold colors made the picture very beautiful. Her paintings always let people have a kind of undisguised emotion, and her bold characteristics and artistic pursuit are fully demonstrated in her delightful brushwork and colors. She was a born artist. What distinguished her from other oil painters was that she had been involved in all kinds of art forms and was highly accomplished: landscape, figure, still life, sculpture, print, Chinese painting. Besides, she audaciously explored different types of art schools and had excellent performance in them, from traditional Realism, modern Impressionism to modern painting, and even the blended Chinese and Western art style. Among them, impressionist techniques and Oriental artistic sentiment were the two bases of her painting evolution, and thus formed the trajectory of her artistic development. These portrait paintings have never been displayed together before.

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In the work “Female Nude Beside the Window”, the artist painted the woman having blackish red on the face and looking slightly drunk and shy. Against the traditional female body with white skin, she employed bronze and red-brown color to express the beauty of the healthy female body as well as the strength bursting out of her tenderness. The lines of the work are simple and bold, with a sense of Fauvism and strong subjective feelings, which also contributed to the taste of the naked woman’s misty thoughts shown between the slightly raised eyebrows.

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The “Four Beauties After the Bath” is a milestone-like representative work of Pan Yuliang in her transition period. The group image of the bathing girls has a touch of paying tribute to a few Western impressionist master predecessors, and the momentum and pattern unfolded in this work are also magnificent. The work shows the influence brought by impressionist pointillism, as the picture is painted with slight color, and takes rose color as the background, along with the color and shape of the bathing girls and cushion, giving off the flavor of the Fauvism painter Matisse. However, the lines used in the painting draw on the tradition of Oriental art – Tie Xian Yin Gou (vigorous and beautiful lines), which inherited the tradition of delicacy and charm produced in Chinese calligraphy to outline the female bodies, showing both their graceful curves and resolute quality. The original integration and innovation have formed a unique style of Pan Yuliang. From her painting techniques, it can be seen that Pan Yuliang’s art at that time showed a gradual fade out of exploring Western painting and began to present her personal and independent aesthetic.

 

Chang Yu

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Chang Yu, Woman in Red

Chang Yu was born in a wealthy merchant family in Sichuan in1900. At the age of 19, he went to France with Xu Beihong, Lin Fengmian, and others to study on a work-study basis. He died impoverished in 1966 due to the gas leakage in his studio in Paris. He didn’t enjoy the same fame as others when he was alive and walked lonely throughout his art career. Some people view him as a Chinese Modigliani, and others compare him to “a Chinese potting planted in Paris”. His life was sober as his words, clear and full of powerlessness. He once wrote, “we can’t follow the times, our bodies are fragile, and our lives are too short.” His works often leave an unforgettable impression: pure, spotless, without redundant strokes and decoration. He said that people should live out their own life and be honest. The “Woman in Red” reveals the breath of life he wanted to express. In the painting, the woman looks at people with one eye, thoughtful and reluctant to speak out. There is also a dismissive expression between her eyebrows, giving out an overwhelming solitude and freshness. Zhu Dequan, a painter travelling in France, described Chang Yu in this way, “Chang Yu is worth of a pious and faithful artist who had undertaken the responsibilities of his time. From the standpoint of the Chinese people, we should recognize his achievements and give him new comments on the development history of Chinese and Western painting.”

 

Zhao Wuji

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Zhao Wuji, 1.12.64, Oil on canvas, 130x89cm, 1964

Zhao Wuji entered Hangzhou National College of Art in 1935 and went to study in France in 1948, and then settled in France. He combined the Western modern painting forms and color techniques of oil painting with traditional Chinese culture and was known as a representative of the modern Western Lyrical Abstraction. He was called “Zhao Whisky” in the art circle in Paris, which means two things: one is that he drunk heavily, and the other is that he could afford Whisky. Perhaps because his good family background brought him confidence, Zhao Wuji knew that Montparnasse was a place where French artistes gathered and rented a house there when he just came to France. His studio in the south of France was once adjacent to Picasso’s house, and he kept a good friendship with this 80-year-old man. He had also been the neighbor of the world-famous sculpture artist Giacometti for 17 years. These people had a profound influence on his creation. From his works, it can be seen the tension of traditional Chinese culture bursting forth, which made Chinese and Western art reach a high degree of agreement and integration in the spirit.

At this point, we have introduced the highlight artworks in the main exhibition of “Pioneering: Chinese Artists Abroad in France and Chinese Modern Art (1911-1949)”.

Ture, as Fan Di’an, President of CAFA and the Chief curator of this exhibition, said, “How big an exhibition of Chinese artist studying in France should be for a full presentation? It is almost unimaginable because many of their works are in art history books, in art galleries and even in museums of foreign countries. However, this exhibition has already taken on a certain scale, supported heavily by dozens of public and private art museums as well as individual collectors. As a result, the exhibition not only has a number of classic works that we are familiar with but also have many works that have not been displayed in public before, which constitutes a brand-new look of this show. The general audience can appreciate the exhibition, while scholars can have chances to study them. Despite many works and literature cannot be retrieved due to historical reasons, the purpose, content, and structure of this exhibition can let people review the modern value of Chinese art from the dynamic process of international art.”

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Throughout history, China in the 20th century was undoubtedly amid a great transformation, facing new crisis and transition, and art, as a particular product of social ideology, was bound to seek for new vitality. It was in such a background that a generation of artists studying in France hoped to enter a larger international art stage to complete their self-construction. More

The First Chinese Student Who Won the School Award of ENSBA and was Regarded as the Best Artist Then by Chang Shuhong! ...

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Guo Yinglin was an artist admired by Chang Shuhong.

Chang Shuhong mentioned more than once that

Guo Yinglin was the best artist at that time,

However, none of us have seen his paintings.

All of them were lost due to historical reasons,

and were highly appraised only in the literature.

In the exhibition “Pioneering: Chinese Artists Abroad in France and Chinese Modern Art (1911-1949)”, many art treasures which have only existed in the legend are displayed for the first time, and many art masters who have been forgotten in history come into our view again, including Guo Yinglin, who had studied in France in the early days, with his three legendary oil paintings. It is the first time that Guo Yinglin’s works are shown in front of the public, and also the first time that the three dust-laden important artworks that have been kept in CAFA for more than half a century appear in public.

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Guo Yinglin, Copied Millet “The Gleaners”, Oil on canvas, 82x108.5cm, 1920s-1930s

Guo Yinglin was undoubtedly a unique missing person. The first recording of him was discovered in “The Meeting Minutes of the Association of Chinese Artists in France”, which wrote “Guo Yinglin, male, painting, correspondence address – Xiamen Jimei School, returned to China”. For a long time, we have known nothing of his experience and achievements, nor of his works, and thus, he became a veritable missing man in art history.

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Guo Yinglin, copied Corot “Forest Fairies Dancing in Early Morning”

Oil on canvas, 97×125.5cm, 1932

Mr. Huang Yongyu recalled memories of his teacher Guo Yinglin in the article “The Days in Jimei”: “My first art teacher in Jimei School was Guo Yinglin. He was a real and formal graduate from École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris (some people were not). He was good at both figure and landscape oil painting. I revered him because I didn’t know oil painting and most of the foreign painters he mentioned. He went to Paris after graduating from Jimei School. His voice was burry and nasal, mixed with a foreign flavor, and he dressed smartly. I felt very proud of following him to the gallery, through the oil curry trees and acacia trees.

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Guo Yinglin, copied “Playing Piano”, Oil on canvas, 147.5x114.5cm, 1932

In the hallway hang the large and gold-framed paintings he had copied in Paris, in which there is a painting depicting an old man teaching a beautiful girl to play the piano. This picture is very touching as if the girl in the painting was Mr. Guo Yinglin’s own daughter, and she is afraid of making Mr. Guo get angry, so she secretly takes more glances. Mr. Guo went to Indonesia later. “The painting of a girl playing piano” described by Mr. Huang refers to the work “Playing Piano” in this exhibition. It is an oil painting that Guo Yinglin copied in France, and the original author is unknown. However, from the painting style, it should belong to classical academia school. 

According to the materials provided by Guo Yinglin’s descendants and relevant historical documents, Guo Yinglin was born in Bondowoso, East Java province, Indonesia on September 27, 1898. When he was six years old, he came back to China with his father. He first studied in a private school in his hometown Haicheng town (now Zhangzhou, Fujian province), and then followed his uncle Guo Meicheng to study in Jimei Normal School.

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Guo Yinglin (courtesy of Lin Mingjie)

Later, he transferred from Jimei Middle School to Nanjing National Jinan School for further study in the Teacher Education Department. After graduation, he went to the Philippines to teach at the Anglo-Chinese School and spent his spare time to learn painting in the art class at the University of the Philippines. He was fond of sports, swimming, and track and field events. In 1922, he spent 3 hours with Gu Zhenglai to swim nearly 14 kilometers from Jimei School to Gulangyu Island, and he also participated in the triple jump competition in the Philippines.

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Guo Yinglin, Sketch in The Louvre, about 1932 (courtesy of Lin Mingjie)

In 1927 (one said 1928), Guo Yinglin was funded by his friend to study in France. In early 1929, he applied for École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris (ENSBA) and was accepted to the Sculpture and Sketch class, where he learned charcoal painting during the day and studied at the Municipal Night School of Fine Arts at night. In April 1930, he failed in the formal examination for ENSBA and thus worked much harder (the examination was held once a year and had stringent admission requirements. No matter how many candidates joined the exam, it would only enroll the first 15 students, and the students ranked from 16th to 60th place were in line for the official students within the one-year period). The next year, he was finally elected as a permanent student of the school.

In June 1931, Guo Yinglin took part in the charcoal painting competition of the school and unexpectedly won fifth place. This was the first Chinese student who gained the prize in the history of ENSBA. Chang Shuhong also said that Guo was the best student then.

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Portrait photo of Guo Yinglin during his stay in France (courtesy of Lin Mingjie)

Guo Yinglin completed his studies in France while working part-time. In July 1932, he finished his studies at ENSBA and left the school. In January of the following year, he went back to China after the farewell party held for him by his classmates in France. At the same time, he became one of the founding members of the notable Association of Chinese Artists in France. On March 18 of the same year, Guo Yinglin was employed by Jimei School as the director of the school art museum and also served as the teacher of the Western painting in Xiamen Art School. His students included famous Taiwanese painter Zhuang Suo and Huang Yongyu.

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The wedding picture of Guo Yinglin and Lin Cuijin taken at Zhongshan Park in Xiamen

In 1934, Guo Yinglin married Lin Cuijin, a celebrity lady born in Gulangyu. Ms. Lin Cuijin was born in 1904 in Ilang, Philippines and studied in Jimei Normal School. Three of her female cousins were married to Chen Jiageng’s three sons and became sisters-in-law, which was a story passed on with approval and also doomed that Guo Yinglin & Lin Cuijin couple had an indissoluble bond with Chen Jiageng in a lifetime.

In July, the Anti-Japanese War broke out, and in order to escape from the war, Guo Yinglin went to Nanyang and became an art teacher of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore. The Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts was founded by Lin Xueda (1895-1963), one of the founding members of Xiamen Art School, with the support of Chen Juexiang (son of Chen Jiageng) and the alumni association, opening the prologue of local arts education in Nanyang. Among the faculty members were Lin Xueda (principal), Qiu Yingkui, Guo Yinglin, Zhong Mingshi, Xie Touba, and so on. Xie Touba once said, “Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts is the overseas extension of Xiamen Art School.” The establishment of this art school is regarded as a typical example of Chinese modern art education system extending to overseas Chinese.

On December 8, 1941, after the downfall of Singapore, Guo Yinglin followed Guo Meichen to take refuge in Surabaya, Indonesia. He first taught in an overseas Chinese primary school and after a year, opened a gift shop with his friend. In 1942, Chen Jiageng escaped to Indonesia for shelter. In order to cover for Chen Jiageng, Guo Yinglin suspended the business of the gift shop and moved to Solo in central Java with family to rent a house for a while, and later moved into Malang in East Java. Guo Yinglin registered Chen Jiageng, under the name of “Li Wenxue”, in the residence booklet of his gift shop opened in Surabaya. In this way, Chen Jiageng became a legal resident who had moved to Java before the war and lived in Surabaya for five years and obtained the identity card. It was also an important reason why Mr. Chen Jiageng could get rid of the rounding up of the Japanese. During the three years, Guo Yinglin managed local product business and then opened a toothbrush factory, and as such, he gave up drawing completely. 

Japan surrendered in 1945, and at the end of September, Guo Yinglin accompanied Chen Jiageng to go to Jakarta by train. Before leaving Malang, Chen Jiageng gave ten copies of The Memoirs of an Overseas Chinese of the Southern Ocean transcribed by him to the Guo Yinglin couple for preservation. In the 1980s, Ms. Lin Cuijin entrusted her children to donate the manuscripts to the state in twice, which are now collected by the Cheng Jiageng Memorial Hall in Jimei, becoming the treasure of the museum.

In the 1950s, Guo Yinglin’s children gradually grew up and could help manage the business. So, he didn’t have to rush about for life and started to pick up the paintbrush again.

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Nanyang Siang Pau, reported on page 6 of February 24, 1933

In October 1956, an exhibition of works by the Indonesian overseas Chinese art group, comprising works of ten members from the Indonesia Overseas Chinese Art Association, was held in Beijing. It was the first exhibition held by overseas Chinese art group in China since 1949. Guo Yinglin, deputy head of the delegation, visited China and participated in the exhibition with many of his works. There he also met Huang Yongyu, his student decades ago. After the exhibition, he traveled all around the country and returned to his hometown, Gulangyu in Xiamen, and created a batch of paintings. After back to Indonesia, he had lived a stable life for several years, which could be regarded as the most pleasant time for him. On October 19, 1961, he died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 63.

Before his death, Guo Yinglin told his wife Lin Cuijin to send his large copied paintings made in France, such as “Teaching Piano” and “Horses”, to the Embassy of Indonesia for transferring them to the Beijing Museum. Unfortunately, however, these paintings disappeared and never to be heard again in spite of many searches. 

On October 31, 2018, with multiple efforts of Mr. Wang Cong in Indonesia, Mr. Zhou Bin, the cultural counselor of the Chinese embassy in Indonesia, Mr. Wang Zhixian, the second secretary of the Embassy of China in Indonesia, artist Mr. Ma Yongqiang, Guo Yinglin’s student Mr. Cao Dali, and Guo Yinglin’s descendants, it was finally confirmed that three pieces of his works were donated to the CAFA after his death. This news was verified by Li Yaochen, the director of the Collection Department of CAFA Art Museum. So far, after the search for Guo Yinglin’s final works for a half-century, a satisfactory result was finally achieved.

On entering the exhibition hall of “Pioneering: Chinese Artists Abroad in France and Chinese Modern Art” Exhibition at CAFA Art Museum, we can see the three works displayed side by side: “The Gleaners”, “Playing Piano” and “Forest Fairies Dancing in Early Morning”. In the face of these works, we cannot help but sign that, as an early artist studying in France, Guo Yinglin should not be forgotten by art history. His experience and works should be recorded and passed on, and the artistic spirit of previous artists should be inherited more than ever.

Author/Dong Song


Exhibition Information

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Date: January 12 – March 3, 2019

Venue: CAFA Art Museum

 

Exhibition Tour Information

Long Museum (Shanghai) March 15 – June 9, 2019

Long Museum (Chongqing) June 21 – September 1, 2019

CAFA Art Museum · Qingdao Branch September 15 – October 25, 2019


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Reading “Pioneering” Exhibition: Collective Achievements and Individual Characteristics ...

2019-01-26

At the beginning of 2019, the anticipated grand exhibition “Pioneering: Chinese Artists Abroad in France and Chinese Modern Art” is unveiled at CAFA Art Museum. It is an exhibition of historical significance, and for the first time, the visitors can have a look at these artists as a group through their original works. The first impression of the exhibition is that the works are diverse. When you really see this exhibition, you will find that it presents a show with multiple interpretation spaces. More

Re-discussion on the Curatorial Structure of “Pioneering: Chinese Artists Abroad in France and Chinese Modern Art” Exhibition ...

2019-03-07

When a country falls and its power declines, it is imperative to take reform. After the May Fourth New Culture Movement, the “tide of studying abroad”, as a way to transform China and make it strong, became one of the most characteristic phenomenon of Chinese art at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Studying in Japan, France, and later the Soviet Union were three routes of studying abroad and became three holy lands for Chinese art moving towards modernity. If “studying in Japan” was the beginning of China’s entry into formal art education, then “studying in France” established the system and pattern of Chinese modern art development. The “Pioneering” exhibition traces the violent history of Chinese artists studying in France as well as its influence on the modern advancement of Chinese art. Retrospect is for looking into the future firmly. In the early 20th century, despite frequent wars, it was full of stories, and the development of the reform promoted the exchange and integration of ideas across regions and cultures. In the past two years, more and more early case studies have been conducted, but a large-scale academic review is still in short supply, so this grand exhibition is planned and organized under such a background. On the occasion of the continental celebration of CAFA, it mobilizes academic resources, as CAFA Art Museum calls up a curatorial team from multiple channels to construct this exhibition, inviting experts and scholars who have conducted an in-depth research on the field of “studying abroad in France”, including Dong Song, Philippe CINQUINI, Liu Libin, Jiang Mingyang, to participate in the curating work. After carefully checking historical materials and searching for missing pieces of works, the curatorial team sorted out the final appearance of the exhibition from interlaced clues. The topic of the exhibition involves multiple perspectives, such as the spread of Western modern art in China, the transformation of Chinese art to modernity, and the starting point of Chinese modern art education, and so on. With compact structure and grand scale the cultural phenomenon of “studying abroad in France” is deeply explored and presented in the exhibition.

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Oil painting comes from the West, and the establishment of its discourse subject is inseparable from the way of teaching and learning. At that time, France was the center of world art, China was in the climax of the tide of “Studying Abroad in France”, and Europe was also on the node of transition from classical tradition to various trends of modern art. When the first batch of Chinese artist studying in France returned to China, they displayed their talent to build schools, resume education, start publications, and hold exhibitions in devastation, and put the artistic concepts and techniques they learned in France into practice in the social soil of China. Their drastic speculation on modern art was like a ripple in the pool of China. How to comb through this complex history without having any prejudice? The curator Hong Mei mentions that when it comes to the transformation of Chinese art in the first half of the 20th century, whether they were pioneers of exploration who tended to modern appeals of Western classical academia school and Realism, or those forerunners who were on the road of modern appeal approaching various Western modernist schools, they jointly propelled the formation and development of the basic appearance of Chinese art in the 20th century. From this way of thinking, the exhibition set up an open space for showing them on the same stage. As the exhibition clues move forward, the diverse and rich artistic ideas of these artists of that time are presented in a broader framework, and finally back to the central theme.

In the premise of following the above-mentioned curatorial ideas, the details of the exhibition are also made clear with more designs that fit in the whole picture. The presentation starts with the works of Wu Fading and Wang Rujiu who were among the first artists studying in France and ends with Liu Ziming, the last artist who studied in France in 1949. Xu Beihong was the first student to study in France at public expense, and many vital works created by him during his study in France are displayed at the beginning of the exhibition. Wu Guanzhong and Zhao Wuji went to France at the end of the whole trend, and directly opened the prelude of another era in their entire artistic creation. The well-planned layout of square shape, both objective and monolithic, not only give consideration to the personal appearance of the artists but also points to the deep reasons and driving forces for the formation of the phenomenon of studying in France. It concentratedly reproduces the scene of the mixed group of students studying in France who pursued Modernism, which touches the audience’s heart after watching the exhibition. 

In addition to the masterpieces of famous painters, the curator Hong Mei has done much hard work to select works and complete the list of exhibits in the process of sorting. The exhibition excavates and brings out the works of artists such as Xie Touba, Guo Yinglin, Wang Rujiu, Li Fengbai, Lei Guiyuan, Liu Ziming, and so on, which enables the works of many artists studying in France who have faded out of mainstream art history to be exposed to the public again. The scholar Dong Song traces the historical data of Guo Yinglin, an artist missing in the history circle for a long time, and makes the three Guo Yinglin’s paintings, which have been covered with dust in CAFA Art Museum for many years, be shown to the public for the first time, which attracts the attention of experts and scholars again, and also reflects the curatorial team’s respect for original history appearance as well as their self-consciousness for mining historical materials.

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Among the courses selected by many artists who studied in France, oil painting, sketch and sculpture were the main subjects. However, due to the small amount of existing historical materials and objects of early sculptures, the research on sculpture and modern sculpture has been quite difficult as it has been in a weak position. In this “Pioneering” exhibition, apart from the clues from canvas works, the sculpture section “Chinese Sculptors Who Studied in France: Chinese Artists Abroad in France and Chinese Modern Sculpture” that curated by Liu Libin is another highlight of the exhibition and forms a complementary perspective.

This special exhibition uses three sections to review the main activities of sculptors who studied in France. From a large number of raw materials, images and works on display, it is surprising to find that their creation styles are quite distinct. During their time in France, their nude portraits showed the exact proportions of the human body, in line with the artistic aesthetic expression techniques, and many works even won the salon award. With the development need of Chinese monument sculpture and urban space, a large number of public sculpture projects have been promoted. In order to make sculpture survive in the realistic soil, these sculptors made more explorations, changes, and practices in the combination of Western sculpture and traditional Chinese sculpture.

Due to these complex historical reasons, in order to highlight the academic value and practical significance of modern Chinese sculpture in the first half of the 20th century, curator Liu Libin led a shooting team to Chongqing, Chengdu, and other cities to search for the public sculpture that inspired people during the Anti-Japanese War. By using aerial photos and holographic projection, they try their best to bring the audience close to the context in which these sculptures were created, through showing original works, presenting graphics and texts, and restoring public sculptures with 3D reconstruction. Among them, Liu Kaiqu’s “Monument of Unknown Heroes” is presented vividly with the high-tech way of 3D images, which is an innovative way to attract viewers to have a more comprehensive and multi-level understanding of the pioneers of modern sculpture.

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The man who eats the fruit thinks of the tree, and the man who drinks the water thinks of the source. Tracking back to the cause of knowledge and context, the special exhibition “Chinese Artists Abroad in France and Their French Teachers”, combs through the influence of those French teachers on Chinese artists who had studied in France, and thus leads to a hidden clue that promoted the formation of Modernist ideas of Chinese artists – French teachers. Curator Philip CINQUINI has conducted a profound study on Xu Beihong as well as the learning process and teacher-student relationship of Chinese artists studying in France in the early of the 20th century. From this point of view, compared with the migration process of different technical elements moving from one civilization to another, it is more important that artists absorbed these elements from France and practice them in China. During the process, the connection built between Chinese artists and French artists had played a crucial role.

In this special exhibition, the curator selected the works from four French artist of Academism of École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris (ENSBA): Fernand Cormon, Paul Albert Besnard, Pascal DAGNAN-BOUVERET, and Francois Flameng; the artists who had associated with the modernist movement of the early 20th century; early Faurist painter Othon Friesz, and two French Cubist painters Andre Lhote and Jean Souverbie. They either taught or directly trained at independent colleges and had a direct impact on the thinking of Chinese students in the process of teaching them. The exhibition also presents the works of French teachers who had traveled to China or Asia to teach, such as André Maire, who had taught Dong Xiwen at the branch school of ENSBA in Hanoi, Vietnam. André Claudot used to teach at Beiping Art School in Beijing and then went to Hangzhou with Lin Fengmian.

In this special section, all the details of Chinese artists taking Western painters as the reference gather together and eventually lead to the history of the direction selection and appearance formation of Chinese art transformation in the first half of the 20th century. It also brings about the profound issue about choosing artistic view in the past a hundred years of exploration.

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In 1917, Cai Yuanpei, Li Shizeng and other artists established the Sino-French Education Association and a Work-Study program in Beijing. For that, a large number of art students gained the opportunity to study in France under a study-work basis. There were more than one hundred art students studying in France, and in addition to ENSBA, many students spent their time in private studios, becoming the largest number of international students at that time. In an era of great changes, the pioneering students studied with determination and perseverance, endured the loneliness of being in a foreign country, and pursued true knowledge of art while feeling the free air of art in France at that time, and then continuously prompted the emergence of different associations. The well-known ones include “Hopps Association”, “The Association of Chinese Artists in France”, “Chinese Art Society in France”, and so on. 

On April 2, 1933, The Association of Chinese Artists in France was founded at Chang Shuhong’s residence in Paris, France. Chang Shuhong expressed in the article “The Establishment of The Association of Chinese Artists in France” (published in the special issue for the Association of Chinese Artists in France, No.8, Volume 2, Yifeng magazine) that, “we feel deeply comforted in spirit by the freedom to comment on the state of the art world and art problems, yet in order to consolidate our foundation and develop our external cause, it seems that we need an appropriate organization.” By April 1934, the Association of Chinese Artists in France had held 16 meetings in one year (according to Li Han’s preliminary study on the artists’ group of the Association of Chinese Artists in France in 1930s). It went through several different historical periods and continued to play a role until around 1950. In 1984, the last president of the association, Mr. Pan Yuliang, returned to China with relevant materials, which enabled the data of the association activities after 1934 to be able to enter the research field, and scholar Dong Song made an in-depth study on it. Dong Song and Jiang Mingyang jointly curated the special exhibition of “A Village in a Foreign Land: Association of Chinese Artists Abroad in France”, and based on the analysis of the three historical development stages of the association to present relevant materials to the audience completely for the first time. Within the exhibition, there is a member list of the association, which involves more than 110 artists from the first session to the reelection of it in 1945, and includes information collected about them: portrait, birth and death year, birthplace, subject, and the period of their stay in France. It is a collection and presentation of precious academic historical materials. However, over the turbulent years, it has been difficult to verify the birth and death years of some artists and find their photo materials. Without the carrying out of these research works, they would disappear into the long history.

To some extent, this special exhibition serves as documentary support for the main exhibition. Through essays, letters, manuscripts, photos of activities, original works that created for fundraising the Anti-Japanese War, and other valuable objects and documents, intertwined organically with visual works of other exhibition areas, the viewers can read the artists’ minds, perceive their context, and then dig out a lot of dramatic stories behind them. As a warm place and spiritual home for those living and studying in France, the association had carried their ideals and persistence, their meetings and partings, providing a silhouette to see the ups and downs of the trend of “Studying Abroad in France”.


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