In China, poets and artists often express their passion for places through their art forms. While the generic landscape is a basic theme in Chinese painting, many works also display artists’ emotions about specific locations or longing for their hometowns.
In 2018 and 2019, Wan-go H. C. Weng (1918–2020) made the largest gift of Chinese paintings and calligraphy to the MFA in the institution’s history, comprising more than 230 objects acquired and passed down through six generations of his family. This exhibition features approximately 20 works from the gift that relate to travel and home—concepts that have taken on new depths of meaning since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when people all over the world were largely confined to their houses.
“Weng Family Collection of Chinese Painting: Travel and Home” includes paintings and calligraphy by some of the greatest masters from the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties. Luo Pin’s Sites of Su Shi’s Travels (1780) traces the route of the 11th-century poet and scholar Su Shi. Multiple works represent the art and regional culture of Changshu, the Weng family’s hometown. A masterpiece among them is Ten Thousand Miles along the Yangzi River (1699), a 53-foot-long scroll by Wang Hui, one of the Qing dynasty’s most prominent artists and a native of Changshu. The most recent work in the exhibition, a short color film by Wan-go Weng himself titled A Town by the Yangtze (1948), presents a pre-modern Chinese cityscape—including scenes of daily life and architecture—recorded in Changshu in 1948.
This is the second in a series of three exhibitions celebrating the landmark donation made by Wan-go H. C. Weng, a longtime supporter of the MFA who, until he passed away in 2020 at the age of 102, devoted his life to the preservation, study, and promotion of China’s cultural heritage.