Opening this month at Ohio’s Cleveland Museum of Art is a fantastic new exhibition exploring the work of Fu Baoshi, a preeminent figure in twentieth-century Chinese art. For those of us unlikely to visit the Buckeye State in the coming months, a beautiful catalogue from Yale accompanies the exhibition. Today we look at Fu Baoshi and his work.
On Sunday 16 October the exhibition Chinese Art in an Age of Revolution: Fu Baoshi opened at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and features extraordinary works of art by one of China’s greatest painters. The exhibition, which runs until 8 January 2012 examines Baoshi’s artistic career through an overview of his work dating from the 1920s to 1965.
Fu Baoshi (1904–1965) hailed from from Xinyu, Jiangxi Province, but went to Japan to study the History of Oriental Art at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts in 1933. The influence of Japan is evident in his painting style, and he is famous for bringing Japanese visual elements to the Chinese ink painting tradition. His works of landscape painting employ a skillful use of dots and inking methods, creating a new technique encompassing many varieties within traditional rules. He was able to create an old, elegant style through his integration of poetic atmosphere and painting techniques.
Fu had strong patriotic feelings towards his country, and during his travel to many places, he recorded the splendors of the rivers and mountains, drawing inspiration from nature and becoming the representative landscape painter of his time.
The exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art places Fu Baoshi and his work within the context of his country’s enormous political upheavals. During Fu’s lifetime China was riven with internal conflict, including the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty, the outbreak of the Chinese Civil War and the victory of the Communist Party. By placing Fu Baoshi and his work within the art-historical, social, political and cultural contexts in which his art was created, a fascinating story is told of the artist’s struggle and political reconciliation in a time of war and revolution.
From traditional-style landscape and figure painting to political artwork manifesting state ideology during the Mao era, Fu’s work demonstrates his search for a unique artistic language that speaks for the self and the nation. Using native tradition as an essential element, Fu’s artistic modernity defined Chinese art as a discipline distinct from Western and international socialist art of the time.
Chinese Art in an Age of Revolution is Yale’s companion catalogue to the Cleveland exhibition and is the first comprehensive retrospective of Fu’s work to be published in the West. The book includes more than 100 artworks that demonstrate his stylistic transformation across several decades. Insightful essays offer the latest scholarship on Fu’s life and art, Japan’s impact on modern Chinese art and art and politics in China’s turbulent 20th century.
Chinese Art in an Age of Revolution is out now from Yale University Press.
The exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art runs from 16 October 2011 – 8 January 2012.