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What does "modern" means? High technology, new ideas, new interest, new systems, íK and to China-- probably revolution: In 1911, the Chinese Revolution; In 1919, the "4th May" movement; In 1949, the Cultural Revolution. And not to forget that the Republic of China was established in 1912 and the People's Republic of China was established in 1949. A new century has come. Traditional Chinese value system and believes are being challenged by the Western world, which brought in everything new to China. Chinese started to believe that China had been weak. They were determined to improve their country. And that was how revolutions after revolutions began.
The same applies to Chinese art. Many more foreigners came to visit and influenced Chinese artists. At the same time, some Chinese artists went overseas. They brought in new art concepts, techniques and tools. As more people began to pay attention to art, art schools were established all over the country. Chinese art became a subject in universities. Traditional Chinese art was then revolutionized, or we can say, it is "modernized".
On the whole, Chinese art was at its stagnancy. Beijing artists followed the traditional style of painting. Nevertheless, the revolution of art has begun. Before and after the "4th May" movement, thinkers, theorists and artists that supported a "revolution of art" criticized scholar paintings for being perfunctory and leading Chinese art to a decline. Meanwhile, some pointed out the advantages of scholar paintings. In fact, scholar paintings are painted as one pleases. This is a major element of modern Chinese art. Artists were exploring on the idea of a revolution. Artists at this time started to be influenced by Japanese and Western art. Lingnan denomination appeared in Guangdong, which aimed at renewing Traditional Chinese art with Western and Japanese art elements. Of course, opposing voices were strong, too. This phenomenon also happened in other places of China, for example, Beijing and Shanghai.
In this period, the conflicts were gradually assuaged. Artists concentrated on exploring art themselves. In Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, etc., artists started to learn from more different artists other than Qing Chu Liu Jia. Shanghai was the largest trading port of China and was more opened to foreigners. Western artists, traditional artists and artists that combined Chinese and western art congregated there, as well as Nanjing and Hangzhou, the two cities with a long-term history.
In 1949, China started a new historical period. (The blockage of the West) caused Chinese art and culture to go into a state of insulation. Free trade in the art market disappeared. Publishing pictorials and operating private art schools were forbidden. The government tried to control the artists. They had to serve the country. Educational, positive and common themes and formats of paintings are authoritatively approved; Exploring a unique style, criticizing the present and expressing oneself were suppressed because of the subconscious influences and political reasons. Nihilism engulfed the whole China during the Cultural Revolution. Art exploration other than the paintings on political promotion was in a state of "shock". Some artists were even imprisoned.
As the Cultural Revolution ended, China revolutionized her internal and external policy. Western culture flooded in, and another historical period began. Young and middle-aged artists started to change their way of thinking. They thought over the tradition and the present, the east and the west. Once again, people concerned about how Chinese paintings were modernized.
Wu Changshuo (1844-1927)
His place of origin is Anji of Zhejiang. He had a literary family, therefore he started writing poems and carving seals when he was 10. When he was 16, a war between the army of Qing and the Heavenly Kingdom of Peace broke out in Zhexi. He got out of touch with his family in the countryside and roamed about for five years. After he returned home, he studied literature and calligraphy.
When he was around 30, he left home to make more friends. He moved to Suzhou in early 1880, then to Shanghai, and made a living by selling pictures. He had once been an official in 1896, but after a month he quitted and continued selling paintings in Shanghai. Because of his achievements in calligraphy and seal carving, he was recommended to be the president of a seal carving organization.
Wu Changshuo worked the hardest on calligraphy and seal carving. When he learnt painting in his 30s, Ren Yi praised his calligraphy and suggested that he could use his calligraphic techniques for painting. Therefore, he used calligraphic strokes in his paintings like Zhao Zhiqian and he learnt from the style of Jin Nong and Xu Wei. His painting became mature when he got old.
He advocated painting pictures with feelings infused, but not trying to be realistic. He was the first artist to use "Yang Hong (foreign red)" in Chinese paintings when he painted flowers. The resulting paintings are colourful yet archaic. They have the temperament of scholars and the flavor of civilians. Many merchants and civilians liked his artworks and bought some. Among his paintings, plum blossoms occupy the largest proportion.
He had many disciples and followers. Those influenced by his style and skills included Qi Baishi and Pan Tianshou. Wang Zhen and Chen Shizeng were two of his followers.
Wang Zhen (1867-1938) combined the graceful style of Ren Xi and the simple and honest style of Wu Changshuo. He painted historical figures, traditions, flowers and birds. Sometimes he would paint basing on the daily lives of peasants and inscribe poems about Buddhist admonishments.
Chen Shizeng (1876-1923) learnt from Shen Zhou, Shi Tao, Gong Xian, etc. He published a very inspiring essay called "The Value of Scholar Paintings" to plead for scholar paintings in 1921. He pointed out the relationship between scholar paintings and traditional Chinese philosophy. He said that each scholar painting had a special meaning behind. That was the improvement in art.
The leaders of the Lingnan denomination were Gao Jianfu, Gao Qifeng and Chen Shuren.
Gao Jianfu (1879-1951)'s name is Lun. Jianfu is his zi. His place of origin is Panyu, Guangdong. Gao Qifeng is his fifth brother. He had lost his parents since he was young and he was poor. He was an apprentice in a medicine shop when he was young to earn money.
He learnt flower and bird painting from Ju Lian (1828-1904), a Guangdong artist when he was 14. He entered college in Macau and learnt charcoal drawing from a French missionary when he was 17. In about 1905, he went to Japan to study and joined some Japanese painting organizations. In 1906, he joined the Alliance Society and became the president of it. He followed Sun Yatsen in revolutionary activities against Qing. He also established two pictorials with Gao Qifeng and Chen Shuren (1884-1949) and organized other activities to advocate new thoughts, art and modern Chinese art. In1925, after Sun Yatsen died, he established "Chun Shui Hua Yuan (spring sleep art school)". In 1930s, he visited and inspected in South Asia, America and Europe. He also held art exhibitions, established two art schools and taught at two universities.
Gao Qifeng (1889-1993) studied abroad in Japan in 1907. He joined his brother in the revolutionary activities after he returned to China. He was very talented in art. He liked to paint fierce birds and animals. He emphasized on the verve, so to express heroism and magnanimity. His paintings were praised by Sun Yatsen for "having the beauty of modern times and they can represent revolution". The two of them inherited Ju Lian's "no bone method". They painted speedily and the pictures are full of verve.
Artists in Beijing
His original name is Huang. Baishi is the short form of Baishi Shanren, his hao. He also has other nicknames. He was born into a poor family in a small village in Xiangtan, Hunan. He had only studied half a year in a village school, then he learnt to be a carpenter.
He started learning painting when he was 27. After 40, he travelled around to imitate, see and enjoy the artworks of Xu Wei, Zhu Da, etc. In 1918, he went to Beijing to avoid the bandits. His temperament of peasants was being laughed at, and his artworks were not welcomed, too. Fortunately, Chen Shizeng appreciated his talents. He suggested him to create his own style. After ten years of hard work, he succeeded in creating a unique style of painting.
Although he lived in Beijing, he kept a peasant mind and life style. He worked extremely hard on painting and put all his reminisce and enthusiasm of the natural world of villages in his artworks. For his entire life, he praised nature, life and peace to arouse the conscience of mankind. In 1955, he was awarded the International Peace Award. In1962, he was chosen as one of the World's Ten Cultural Celebrities by the World's Peace Association.
Pu Xinyu (1896-1963) was another famous artist. His art works has the advantages of the Northern and the Southern denominations. He had the same position as Zhang Daqian in 1930s and 1940s. There was a saying of "South Zhang, North Pu".
*Huang Binhong (1865-1955)
His name is Zhi and his zi is Pucun. Binhong is his hao. His place of origin is Shexian, Anhui. He has many other ancestors that were good at literature and painting. His father, who was a merchant, wanted him to be an official. Therefore, he let him study literature, painting and calligraphy when he was young.
He promoted protesting the Qing government and he was accused as a member of the revolutionary party. So he went to Shanghai in 1907. He had been the professor of art schools and editor of pictorials. He also participated in other art associations. Later, he lived in Beijing and concentrated on writing. He moved to Hangzhou in 1948, taught in a few art schools, and became the principal of a graduate school. He wrote a lot of books in his life.
His paintings are all ink and water landscape. They matured when he was 70 after he had visited many famous mountains and rivers, and created his own style. His early paintings have lighter ink and they look more elegant. They are called "White Binhong'. When he was old, his paintings were painted with the accumulated ink method. They look more profound and were called "Black Binhong". He is famous for emphasizing on brush, ink and paper. He learnt the skills of using the three through imitating, observing the nature and practicing calligraphy. He carefully studied traditional paintings, and it also helped in the modernization of Chinese art.
Liu Haisu (1896-1994)
His place of origin is Changzhou, Jiangsu. He went to Shanghai to study western art when he was 14. He established Shanghai Art School with some other people and became the principal when he was only 16. He taught both Chinese and Western art. Once he was on the wanted list of the warlord for giving lessons on the human body. Conservative people called him "the betrayer of art". Nevertheless, he continued and famous cultured people supported him, for example, Cai Yuanpei. He worked even harder on the revolution of art. He visited Japan and Europe, and organized art exhibitions.
His oil paintings and Chinese paintings were affected by the "savagery denomination". The colours used are bright. But on the whole, he was not too creative.
*Xu Beihong (1895-1953) His place of origin is Yixing, Jiangsu. His father was good at painting from life. When he was 9, he started imitating the painting of Wu Youru (a late Qing artist) and miniature reproduction of animal pictures on tobacco boxes (These tobacco boxes were produced by westerners' tobacco factories in Shanghai. The pictures had the style of realism).
In1915, he went to Shanghai to learn painting from Kang Youwei, an artist and look for a job. In 1919, he went to study abroad in France under the support of the government. He worked extremely hard on sketching and classical realism paintings. He had also been to Germany. He returned to China in 1927. He became the president and professor of different art schools and universities.
He advocated artists that painted realistic pictures only, for he thought that painting declined because people did not emphasize on painting realistic pictures. He was good at Chinese painting of different objects. He tried to combine the east's and the west's techniques to paint realistic pictures. He has many students and followers. Zhang Zhaohe was one of them. His figure paintings of peasants are very realistic.
*Lin Fengmian (1900-1991) is one of the most important Chinese artists in the twentieth century. His place of origin is Meixian, Guangdong. Since he was young, he had learnt carving and painting from his grandfather and father that were stoneworker and civil artist respectively. He went to France in 1919 and Germany in 1923 to study art. He was greatly influenced by a French artist, who advised him to learn more different kinds of art other than painting. He followed his advice and learnt different types of paintings, and he was also interested in ceramics. > click the picture to see more.
After he returned to China in 1925, he became the principal and professors of art schools. He quitted his job in 1938 for a period to concentrate on painting with paint and ink, combining the techniques of the east and the west. In 1951, he retired and spent his time on painting. His French wife and daughter left China in 1955. During the Cultural Revolution, he was imprisoned for four years. Many of his paintings were destroyed. He was allowed to visit his wife and daughter in 1977 and he went to live in Hong Kong until he died.
In 1930s, he painted artworks on the pain and struggle behind the back of the disastrous China. Unfortunately, these paintings were destroyed when Japanese attacked China. He has no longer painted paintings on the society and politics in 1950s, but landscapes, figures, flowers, birds, etc. He also painted abstract pictures. The most outstanding and unique feature of his artworks is that he integrated Chinese's ancient paintings and the visual effect of western modern art.
His zi is Dayi and his hao are Shouzhe, Leipotoufeng Shouzhe, etc. His nickname is Ashou. His place of origin is Ninghai, Zhejiang. His parents were farmers. When he was young, he learnt painting and drawing on his own by using a pictorial book as the original. He entered a teachers' college when he was 19 and he was taught by famous artists and literary men. He returned to Ninghai to teach after he graduated.>click the picture to see more.
In 1923, he went to Shanghai to teach in art schools. Wu Changshuo appreciated him. Pan often asked for his opinions on his artworks. Pan had investigated his paintings for a period and he benefited from it. Then, he put in much effort in calligraphy, art history, seal carving, etc. He became the principal of art schools and the president of art associations later on.
To respond to Mao Zedong's advise of "going deeply into life", he had been to villages and the countryside to paint from life. Unfortunately, he was accused falsely during the Cultural Revolution. He was persecuted mentally and physically. In September 1971, he died with the false accusations still on him.
Pan Tianshou learnt from many different artists. He painted pictures that look strange, ugly, obstinate and profound, all reflecting his interests and characters. He was the best artist to use fingers to paint other than Gao Qipei, a Qing artist. He advocated separating Chinese and western art to let them develop on their own because Chinese and western art have different cultural backgrounds and values.
Chen Zhifo (1896-1962)
His hao is Xueyong. His place of origin is Yuyao, Zhejiang. He was the first Chinese to study craftwork abroad (He studied craftwork in Tokyo in 1918). He had put in much effort on flower and bird paintings of the delicate style. This style has had little development since Song because scholar paintings, which emphasize on expressing oneself, have been far more popular. And also, artists usually do not have the skills in it. Cultured people appreciated his paintings. His position was reconized.
Fu Baoshi (1904-1965)
His original name is Changsheng (long life). He nicknamed himself Baoshi because he liked Shitao's artworks ("bao" means "to hold on to" and "shi", the first character of Shitao, means "stone"). He imitated many landscape paintings of previous artists. Later, when he lived in Sichun, he was inspired by the magnificent and grandeur landscape there. He often observed in the forests. In 1950s and 1960s, he even went to Romania and Czechoslovakia, and other famous mountains and rivers in China to sketch.
His early paintings are carefree and unrestrained, but after sketching in his trips, his paintings became more solid and full. His figure paintings are also very unique. The paintings of ladies look archaic. He also spent much time studying Chinese art history, and he wrote many books.
He liked to drink, probably because of the pain and hardship in his life: His family was poor; His father died early; In his late years, His daughter was very ill; He had to be aware of the "attack" of political incidentsíK He often painted with a glass of wine in his left hand. This might be the reason that he did not live a "long life".
His place of origin is Xuzhou, Jiangsu. He was much exposed to folk music and opera when he was small. When he grew older, a French teacher taught him sketching and oil painting. His figure paintings, which give a comfortable and relaxed feeling, were much praised by cultured people like Xu Beihong and Chen Zhifo. He became the disciple of Qi Baishi and Huang Binhong in 1947, and he was chosen to be the president of art associations.
He learnt both Chinese paintings and western art before 40. He had very sound ability. He learnt from many artists, specifically Shitao and Zhu Da in early 1940s. He mainly painted carefree figures, usually villagers, but he also painted buffaloes and splashed ink landscape. These carefree paintings reflect his characters: enthusiastic, humorous and forthright.
He had been to many different parts of China and foreign countries to paint landscape paintings. He avoided using common handling. He created his own method from the characteristics of the landscape. He was especially interested in the landscape of Southern China, for example, Sichun, Guilin and Huangshan. These places are humid and misty, with many trees and other plants. He had many followers. Someone call it the "Li denomination".
Chang'an denomination in Xi'an
Like Li Keran, some artists in Xi'an also tried to modernize traditional Chinese paintings through painting from life. The following are the representatives of them.
Zhao Wangyun (1906-1977)
His place of origin is Shulu, Hebei. He had been to the countryside to paint pictures of the hard lives of the villagers and small clans. Although he was not systematically taught in western and Chinese art, the modest and simple style of his artworks matches very well with the lives of the villagers in the paintings. Many cultured and political people supported him.
*Shi Lu (1919-1982)
His place of origin is Yenshou, Sichun. His original name is Feng Yaheng. He praised Mao Zedong and the revolution of art. Unfortunately, during the Cultural Revolution, he counteracted the "Si Ren Bang (gang of four)", who did all evils. He was cruelly treated. He was even sentenced to death, and he became insane, but he escaped. Surprisingly, he continued to draw sketches on his way though his body was very weak.
He had produced many relief-prints and Nian Hua. He once again painted Chinese paintings in 1950s (He learnt traditional landscape paintings in his early years). His paintings of figures, landscape and flowers are all good. His early paintings show the verve of plateaus. During the period of his hardship in the Cultural Revolution, he painted only Huashan, rocks and plants. He expressed his innocence, his indomitable determination and criticism of opportunists etc. The strokes of these artworks are bold, stylish and a bit strange, voicing out his anxiety and impetuosity.
Zhang Daqian (1889-1984)
His name is Jiyuan. Daqian is his hao. His place of origin is Neijiang, Sichun. He was the first to imitate the murals of Dunhuang. He had excellent talents and strong imitating skills. He was good at both delicate and relaxed style. He painted many different subjects. He was also good at writing poems. He used the splashed ink and colour method together with the outlining method in his paintings. These two different painting techniques create a very unique effect. They are surprisingly harmonious.
*Wu Guanzhong (1911- )
His place of origin is Yixing, Jiangsu. He had been taught modern art in France. He was the first to raise viewpoints like "abstract beauty" and "format determines the content". Everyone was shocked at that time. He painted only oil paintings before 1970s. Later, he also painted landscapes, and sometimes ink and water flower and animals. They are all lyrical.