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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Snow in the Wilderness, 1955
Ink and Wash, 73.4cm x 117cm.
Huang Zhou (1925–1997) comes from Li county, Hebei province. In his youth, he learnt from the famous painter, Zhao Wangyun. He worked as a middle school art teacher before joining the army as an official artist. He was employed by the government as an art policy adviser, and in 1959 he was appointed as art consultant to the Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution. After the Cultural Revolution, he was commissioned to establish the Research Institute of Traditional Chinese Painting. In 1981 he was appointed deputy dean of the Chinese Painting Research Institute, and in 1991 he established Yanhuang Art Museum.
Huang's main theme was the life of frontier minorities. One of the features of his art is his combining of Western sketch techniques with Chinese ink-and-wash painting. This painting was inspired by a chance encounter with a group of geologists during a journey on the Qinghai-Tibet Highway, where Huang had trekked for a week in the Gobi Desert. Huang depicts the geologists on camels walking in a blinding snowstorm. The snowstorm is not conveyed by the white space used in traditional Chinese painting. Instead, Huang has adopted Western techniques of perspective and elevation. The painting won a gold medal at the International Modelling and Practical Art Exhibition of the Sixth World Youth Festival in 1957.
Chairman Mao Travels all over the Country, 1960
Ink and Wash, 197cm x 117cm.
Li Qi (1928–2009) is from Pingyao, Shanxi province. He studied in the Department of Fine Arts, Union University of North China, in 1945. He taught in the Department of Fine Arts of North China in 1949, and became a professor in the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1950.
This painting was inspired by an incident when the artist, working in the Ming Tombs Reservoir in the suburbs of Beijing, witnessed Chairman Mao dressed in cloth shoes and sweaty clothes.
The painter deliberately places Mao against a neutral background, so that viewers can imagine Chairman Mao anywhere in China, whether countryside or city, factory or university. The travel-stained chairman is drawn with smooth and powerful lines. Chairman Mao appears to be gazing directly at the viewer, creating a strong sense of connection.
Two Lambs, 1954
Ink and Wash, 79cm x 39.1cm.
Zhou Changgu (1929–1986), from Leqing, Zhejiang province, studied at the Hangzhou National Technological Academy of Fine Arts, where he subsequently taught. He was a professor of the Chinese Academy of Art, member of the board of directors of the Chinese Artists Association and vice-chairman of Zhejiang Artists Association.
He began using ink-and-wash painting techniques in the early 1950s, when painters were facing the challenge of adapting traditional Chinese painting methods to the representation of life in New China.
This picture shows an innocent Tibetan girl staring intently at two new-born lambs. Zhou has used the characteristics of traditional Chinese ink-and-wash techniques to depict a contemporary subject.
Touches of colour on the girl's hat and skirt ribbons bring the picture alive. The cross formed by the railings of the sheepfold divides the figures into foreground, middleground and background. In the remaining space Zhou maintains the white space of traditional Chinese painting.
This painting won a gold medal at the World Youth Festival in 1955.
Ink and Wash, 81cm x 65cm.
Li Hu (1919–1975), from Dazu, Sichuan Province, graduated from the Art Department of Chongqing Central University in 1946 and worked as a teaching assistant in Tsinghua University. In 1951 he taught in the Central Academy of Fine Arts under the famous artist Xu Beihong. He later held the posts of lecturer in the Department of Chinese Traditional Painting, and director and professor of the Portrait Painting Division.
Li combines the composition, colour use and perception of light used in Western painting with traditional Chinese ink-and-wash techniques in a combination of Western and Eastern styles advocated by his mentor, Xu Beihong. This idealised portrait of a policewoman points to a broader theme of women enthusiastically working and participating in the construction of New China.
Red Lotuses, 1951
Ink and Wash, 133cm x 60cm.
Qi Baishi (1864–1957) is from Xiangtan County, Hunan, and was a carpenter in his youth. After befriending some scholars he began to learn Chinese painting and calligraphy.
He moved to Beijing at the age of 57 to become chairman of the Chinese Artists Association and honorary dean of the Beijing Fine Arts Academy. In 1953 he was proclaimed 'People's Artist' by the Ministry of Culture.
Qi's work keeps alive the tradition of 'flower-and-bird' painting of the Ming and Qing dynasties, but goes beyond historical traditions to create a new style of freehand brushwork.
Based on his life experiences, his drawings of ordinary Chinese people are heartfelt, resulting in paintings that are both popular and spiritual. Qi's art maintains a balance between real and abstract.
This vibrant painting is representative of the artist's style of 'red flower and black-inked leaves'. It shows lotuses in a pond in various stages of development.
Flowers on Yandang Mountain, 1962
Ink and Wash, 150.8cm x 395.6cm.
Pan Tianshou (1897–1971), from Ninghai, Zhejiang province, graduated from teachers college and became a professor at the Shanghai Technological Academy of Fine Arts and the Shanghai Xinhua Academy of Fine Arts. In 1928, he was professor in the Department of Chinese Painting in the National Academy of Fine Arts. He was president of both the National College of Art and the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts. He also acted as vice-chairman of the Chinese Artists Association, deputy to the National People's Congress and honorary researcher in the Soviet Academy of Arts and Science.
In the late 1950s, Pan Tianshou went to Mount Yandang, which became the subject of many of his paintings, including this large work created at the peak of his career. It combines the techniques of landscape and 'flower-and-bird' painting, but shows a departure from the traditional Chinese artistic values of softness and gentleness. Instead, this work creates a sense of strength by using rigid brushwork and exaggerated figures. The position of and relationship between the stones, flowers and frog is similar to the techniques of composition used in Western painting.