Oil painting diplomacy

By Deng Zhangyu | China Daily | Updated: 2013-09-06 07:19

An exhibition titled The Imprints of Times, which ended on Thursday, featured works of more than 50 well-known Chinese oil painters of different generations.

Beijing Service Bureau for Diplomatic Missions and the Dadu Museum of Art organized the show for diplomats in Beijing. It aimed to give these diplomats the big picture of the development of oil painting in China.

"We have tried to select typical oil paintings of different time periods, from the beginning of the 20th century to today. Each painting has its own style," says Jin Shangyi, director of the Dadu Museum of Art.

Jin, who painted the portrait of the first lady of China Peng Liyuan when she was a young singer in 1984, had four of his portraits on display, including The Woman Nude in Meditation painted in 2002 and The Uygur Girl in Flower Skirt drawn in 1981.

The show featured about 60 works from many big names in Chinese contemporary oil painting, such as Jiang Dahai, Zhou Chunya, Liu Xiao-dong and Chen Danqing. It covered realism, abstract performance and many other painting styles.

Oil painting was introduced to China in the early 20th century. Before New China was founded in 1949, few people in the country had the chance to learn oil painting.

Oil painting diplomacy

The privileged few studied this art form from Europe, says Zhan Jianjun, honorary president of the China Academy of Oil Painting.

Both Zhan and Jin are among the second generation of Chinese oil painters who learned the art from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the 1950s.

Zhan's well-known piece is Five Heroes on Langya Mountain drawn in 1959. Zhan says during the 1950s and the 1960s, Chinese oil painters focused on historical painting that was popular in the West from the 14th century to the 19th century.

After the 1980s, oil painting in China developed quickly. There are lots of young and passionate Chinese oil painters with various styles, says Jin, honorary president of the Chinese Artists Association.

"I have to say Chinese oil painters still have a lot to learn if they want to catch up with their counterparts in the West," says 79-year-old Jin.

Diplomats from more than 10 embassies in Beijing attended the opening ceremony of the three-day oil painting show this week.

"The show is a kind of art exchange between Chinese and the diplomats. By knowing more about Chinese contemporary artists, they might invite Chinese artists to their country in the future. We decided to do this as a way to help Chinese oil painters venture outside China," says Qian Hongshan, director of the Beijing Service Bureau for Diplomatic Missions.

(China Daily 09/06/2013 page18)

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