Saturday, April 3, 2010

Chinese Master Ink Painters at the Cantor Arts Center

Just a few quick notes about a show I saw today: "Tracing the Past, Drawing the Future - Master Ink Painters in 20th-Century China" at the Cantor Arts Center, through July 4, 2010
I was really excited to see this show. Not only was it a room full (100 pieces) of ink & watercolor paintings, but it built on the things I learned in February at the "Shanghai, Art of the City" show at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.
This exhibit at the Cantor was work by four artists, known in China as the "Four Treasures" of 20th Century painting: Wu Changshuo (1844–1927), Qi Baishi (1864–1957), Huang Binhong (1865–1955), and Pan Tianshou (1897–1971).

One of the first images the visitor sees on entering the exhibit is a very large portrait of Wu Changshuo, executed by two of his students. the head is painted in photorealistically, the rest of painting is the loose, brushy style more common to traditional Chinese ink paintings. Until I saw a similar piece at the SF museum recently, I'd never seen this kind of work before. They had several examples here sat the Cantor. Always done in collaborations, with one artist working on the face, another artist finishing the rest. Wu Changshuo's work was very colorful and some showed the influence of the European impressionists. (His painting of hanging gourds below.)

Qi Baishi's animal scrolls were animated, sensitive masterpieces - the perfect line, single strokes, awesome! (That's his shrimp at upper right.)

Huang Binhong did plain air painting in the countryside, and some of his "sketchbooks" (tiny scrolls) were on display in cases. Amazing when you consider they had to grind the inks. His larger scrolls were mostly blacks & greys with lots of layered overpainting and dry brush. (Image of his work at top left.)

Many of Pan Tianshou's scrolls were massive in size. They were designed for public spaces and often hung in government buildings. He also used his fingers instead of brushes much of the time! (Image at right is his.)

In the hall outside the painting exhibit are photographic of the artists, their students, and some of the areas where they lived and worked.

There are a few YouTube videos about the exhibit, but the Cantor web site has almost no images.

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