Revolution and Reform

CAFA Art Museum

A Brief Discussion of Xu Beihong’s Chinese Ink Paintings

Xu Beihong’s Iconic Chinese Ink Paintings
The artist who was engaged in the historic changes in Chinese society

Revolution and reform were key themes in Chinese social development in the first half of the twentieth century, but they were also core issues in Chinese artistic development.

Xu Beihong was deeply influenced by the New Culture Movement, and sensitive to the historic changes that were taking place in Chinese society. Following the ideas of Kang Youwei, this 24-year-old youth published the essay “Ways of Reforming Chinese Ink Painting.” This essay established Xu’s artistic ideas. He would devote his life to improving and reforming Chinese ink painting through realism and “rejuvenating Chinese art.”

Xu Beihong looked high and low for ways to reform Chinese ink painting, and using realist methods, he launched modern large-scale history painting in Chinese ink.

The path to reforming Chinese ink painting that he pioneered, and the ink and wash painting and the transformative New Chinese Painting he later advocated, would transform Chinese ink painting from a traditional to a modern mode and provide historic possibilities and feasible paths for exploration.

His works The Foolish Old Man Moves a Mountain, Jiu Fanggao, Join Forces in Tokyo, Chongqing People Drawing Water, and Boatmen criticized social problems at that time. His upright temperament and well-defined tastes will exist forever in the sharply contrasting brushstrokes and realist modeling of his work.

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