Ink and Wash / Sumi-e Artworks and Masters – Xu Beihong (徐悲鸿 / Hsü Pei-hung): Reviving Old Traditions


A Short Biography of Xu Beihong (徐悲鸿 / Hsü Pei-hung)

Xu Beihong (1895 – 1953) belonged to the strongest painters in modern Chinese ink and wash painting. He was sent to France in 1919 by the Ministry of Education to study Art at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. After graduation in 1923, he stayed in Europe and traveled around, examining the art of Berlin, Vienna and Zurich. He returned to Beijing in 1928 and became professor at numerous art institutions in Nanjing and Beijing. Until 1949, years were filled with exhibitions in China and in foreign countries. In 1953, he died of tuberculosis of only 57.

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History of Sumi-e – Art and Painting in China in the 20th Century


Chinese Painting Between Curiosity and Disruption

After the events that came with the downfall of the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1912), China found itself troubled between maintaining traditions and striving for modernization on all possible levels. In painting, various directions were taken. Painters from the Shanghai area , led by Ren Xiong, who had developed an own style since the middle of the 19th century -, saw the Qing Dynasty individualists as their role models and followed their attitude of adding personal styles to the picture, instead of sticking to canonical painting techniques. At the beginning of the 20th century, many Chinese painters were sent abroad to study art education, oil painting and western graphics. Some of them, like Xu Beihong, even managed to have works displayed in foreign exhibitions. The first art department that taught western painting belonged to the Nanjing High Normal School and was opened in 1906. Strong European influences in painting started to show with the use of oil paint. The increasing influence of European painting methods led to a counter movement by artists who found it important to distance themselves from western techniques and to pursue traditional ones.  Fu Baoshi found inspiration in the Japanese nihonga movement, Pan Tianshou followed the paintings of Zhu Da and Shi Tao.

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