Friday, July 19, 2013

Arty Farty Friday ~ Chinese Artist Xu Beihong

A Chinese artist whose work could well be more familiar than his name was born today, 19 July, in 1895: Xu Beihong. I searched to discover how his name should be pronounced, and found the information here:Xu Beihong - pronounced "shoe bay-hoong".

On a Chinese government scholarship Beihong studied art in Paris, France. He spent several years in Europe touring and studying in the museums of France, Berlin, Brussels, Italy and Switzerland; he was inspired by many of the West's great masters, but especially by the styles of Rembrandt and Rubens. In 1949 he became president of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, was elected chairman of the National Union of Chinese Artists. He died, far too soon, of a stroke, at the age of 58 in 1953.

Beihong excelled painting in both oils and traditional Chinese ink. He integrated the styles of ancient art with modern technique, combined Chinese brush and ink work with Western realism. His lovely ink paintings of horses are those people in the West will find most familiar, but he painted figures, portraits, birds, animals, plants and landscapes too.

Xu Beihong 's painting "The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains" (1940), an almost 18-foot-wide, ink painting is based on the Chinese legend of a man who persisted in trying to move a mountain which stood in his way. He argued that if he did not finish the task his children, and then his grandchildren, would eventually have to do so. In depicting the old legend, the artist had hoped to encourage the Chinese people to persist in the face of adversity.

The fable of The Old Man Who Removed the Mountains can be read HERE. (For a bigger version of the painting click on the image).

Chinese art, like Chinese literature, spans many centuries.

Snip from HERE:
Early themes were developed from religious and supernatural beliefs or from the natural environment and landscape. One of the oldest and most basic forms of Chinese art is calligraphy, the painting of the Chinese characters with a brush. Calligraphy has developed as a pure art form with its own standards of excellence. Building on the tradition of calligraphy, Chinese painting developed a distinctive style that differs greatly from Western painting. It is more efficient in terms of brushstrokes and appears more abstract. Landscapes have always been a popular theme, and sometimes these appear bizarre to the Western eye. To the Chinese painter, they may represent a figurative view painted with a few swift strokes of the artist's brush.

With their stress on simplicity and economy, Chinese calligraphy, painting, and poetry are closely related. In all of them, the artist seeks to express both inner harmony and harmony with the natural surroundings. Chinese poets and painters often have sought inspiration by withdrawing to isolated, mountainous areas, and these landscapes have become conventional themes of Chinese art. Similarly, Chinese architecture has traditionally aimed to convey harmony with society and nature.

A few more examples of the work of Xu Beihong - these should enlarge by clicking on them:

Tian Heng and His Five Hundred Followers (1928-30)

Located in Hengmen Bay in the east of Jimo, Tianheng Island has been listed as one of the 26 islands for experimental development. In the late Qin and early Han Dynasties, there were 500 warriors who were loyal to the Qi king named Tian Heng.

When Liu Bang became the first Han emperor, they refused to surrender and committed suicide together on the island.  In its western part, there is a 2.5-meter-high gravestone for the 500 martyrs.  The epitaph on the monument records the heroic deeds of Tianheng and his 500 men.(Here)


mike said...

The quote from Brooklyn College: "Chinese painting developed a distinctive style that differs greatly from Western painting.", isn't true today. Contemporary Chinese art has become very westernized, particularly since 2007.

At least two contemporary Chinese artists are among the world's top ten modern artists in terms of millions of dollars per painting: Zhang Xiaogang and Zeng Fanzhi. The penchant for producing and collecting modern art is a new phenomenon that has spread to other Asian nations, too, particularly Taiwan.

The third example of Xu Beihong's work that you provide, the nude man, sitting, seemingly floating, reminds me of several Maxfield Parrish's paintings that I've seen, with men and-or women in similar repose.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Most sources cite Xu Beihong as leading pioneer of modern Chinese painting, he's the one the two Chinese top ten you mentioned have to thank for their modern position. I guess both he and they came along at the right place during the right time - an with the right talent too of course.

Maxfield Parrish's painting called "Stars" is my favourite of his, and that one, apart from its gender, does have similarities to the 3rd image (the first of string at the end of the post).