A brush with storytelling

Updated: 2014-08-12 14:47

By Lin Qi (China Daily)

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A brush with storytelling

Young Women Singer by Jin Shangyi is displayed at the Stories Behind the Faces exhibition in Beijing. Photos provided to China Daily

While portraits at a CAFA show offer intimate glimpses of their subjects, they also reveal the evolution of contemporary oil painting in China. Lin Qi reports.

Young Woman Singer, a portrait of Peng Liyuan, attracted much public attention when her husband Xi Jinping became China's president almost three decades after she modeled for painter Jin Shangyi.

Observers delight in talking about Jin's selection of his model from three young woman students of the China Conservatory of Music, but overlook the work's innovative spirit as a representative of the artist's "new classic" practice in the 1980s.

The painting is now displayed as an iconic portrait of Chinese oil painting, at an exhibition called Stories Behind the Faces at the museum of Beijing's Central Academy of Fine Arts. It displays 18 paintings and seven sketches from the museum's collection to testify how oil painting developed in China in different stages since the early 20th century.

Young Woman Singer shows Jin's solid basis as a painter that he acquired at CAFA.

After the founding of New China in 1949, Chinese oil paintings largely adopted the socialist realistic approach. Promising art students and painters were sent to the former Soviet Union, or attended master's programs at CAFA taught by the Soviet artist Konstantin Maksimov in the 1950s. Jin, then a CAFA student, perfected the techniques of drawing and oil painting at Maksimov's classes.

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