New China artworks
Since the foundation of the People's Republic of China in 1949, Chinese artists embraced the construction of New China. They took Mao's dictum, 'Serving the people, serving the politics' as their motto, and their works reveal proud and happy workers and farmers. During this period, Chinese artists adopted 'socialist realist' modes of expression to depict the new face of China.
All works are from the National Art Museum of China.
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Group Photo at Tiananmen, 1964
Oil on Canvas, 155cm x 294cm.
Sun Zixi was born in Longkou, Shandong province, in 1929. He joined the People's Liberation Army in 1945 and was involved in political campaigning. In 1958 he graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts and became a teacher at the academy. Since 1995 he has been a member of the board of directors of the Chinese Oil Painting Society.
This work portrays a group of patriots being photographed in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, and evokes Chinese folk paintings of Spring festivals. The contrast between light and shade is muted, and the warm reds and yellows create an atmosphere of celebration. The artist has deliberately chosen people of different ages, status and gender. To the left and right of the main group are representatives of ethnic minorities and a group of uniformed sailors, while in the background, some small children and young people walk slowly towards the foreground. This symbolises the transformation of Tiananmen Square, once the main gate of the Imperial city, into a symbol of New China, showing that people are now in control of their own destinies.
Walking on the Road, 1964
Oil on Canvas, 120cm x 225cm.
Pan Shixun, a member of the Man ethnic group, was born in Jilin province in 1934. In 1960 he graduated from the Wu Zuoren studio of the Central Academy of Fine Arts and became a professor there.
Pan visited Tibet on a number of occasions and created a series of works relating to Tibetan culture. This painting depicts young Tibetan construction workers embracing their part in building a new socialist Tibet. It emphasises the role played by young women in social construction since the founding of the People's Republic of China, echoing the popular saying, 'Women can hold half of the sky', and recalling the song, 'We walk on the road, high-spiritedly'.
Liberating the Ancient Land, 1963
Oil on Canvas, 77cm x 143cm.
Dong Xiwen (1913–1973) was from Shaoxing, Zhejiang province. He attended the Suzhou Academy of Fine Arts in 1933 and in the following year he was transferred to the National Academy of Art in Hangzhou. In 1938, he studied at the Shanghai Academy of Art. He spent a year copying the ancient murals of the Dunhuang grottoes. He taught at the Beiping Academy of Art and he was also a professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts.
Dong visited Tibet three times to immerse himself in local culture. His oil paintings draw on folk art techniques to vividly portray figures and landscapes. This work is one of the earliest to address Tibetan life, and depicts Tibetan people as masters of their own destiny.
Spring Breeze and Willow, 1974
Oil on Canvas, 122cm x 190cm.
Zhou Shuqiao, born in 1938, is from Kaiping, Guangdong province. He graduated from the Oil Painting Department of the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in 1966 and started working at the Guangzhou Fine Arts Company. He later became deputy dean at the Guangzhou Painting Academy.
This painting was produced during the latter part of the Cultural Revolution. It shows young city-based intellectuals responding to Chairman Mao's call to share the experiences of farmers and peasants by going to rural areas for re-education. It depicts a group of young men and women being warmly welcomed to a rural area in the south. The bright colours and strong light emphasise the positive emotions in the painting and the title refers to new beginnings and the desire of these young intellectuals to embrace this new life.
Road to Urumqi, 1954
Oil on Canvas, 100cm × 400cm.
Ai Zhongxin (1915–2003) was born in Shanghai. A student of and assistant to the great master Xu Beihong, he graduated in 1940 from the Art Department of the Central University, where he became a teacher. He was an associate researcher in the China Academy of Art in 1943 and an associate professor at Beiping Academy of Art from 1946 to 1949, becoming professor and later dean of the Painting Department. He was vice-dean of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, and a member of the board of directors of the Chinese Artists Association. In 2001 he was presented the Art of Modelling Achievement Award by the Ministry of Culture. He was the first to propose a teaching program that classified studios according to painting style, and taught in the first oil painting studio.
This magnificent landscape was created in 1954, after Ai spent some time with the Lanzhou-Xinjiang Railway engineering team in Wushaoling, western China. It depicts the strenuous working conditions in the imposing and precipitous Qilian mountains after the heavy May snowfalls.
Seeking Resources for our Country, 1956
Ink and Wash, 82.5cm x 150cm.
Liu Zijiu (1891–1975), was born in Tianjin. He was a landscape painter who also specialised in traditional 'flower-and-bird' painting. He graduated with a major in geological mapping from the Central Surveying and Mapping School in 1920, where he then taught. In his 30s, he moved to Beijing and joined the Chinese Painting Research Society, whose purpose is to 'study from ancient ways and widely adopt new ways of painting'. In 1930 he returned to Tianjin and worked in the Tianjin Art Museum, where he later worked as director. In 1950 he served successively as director of the Art Department of the Tianjin History Museum, and vice-chairman of the Tianjin Branch of the Chinese Artists Association.
Liu Zijiu draws on his background in geological mapping in his depictions of mountains and other landforms, seen here in the 'wrinkled' topological shaping of the rocks on the hills and mountains. Liu's style of painting combines the language of traditional landform painting with elements from modern life. By adding figures who are looking for mineral resources, the painting becomes an expression of production and construction, which is typical of the innovations in Chinese landscape painting during the 1950s.