In the late Qing dynasty and early Republican period (late 19th to early 20th c.), a surge in Western trends combined with an increase in the publication of ancient artworks were intricately related to the spirit of the times and would have a major impact on the history of Chinese painting and calligraphy both in terms of essence and expression. No longer would Chinese art follow the same patterns of development. Not only did the art of this period diverge from traditions prior to the Jiaqing and Daoguang periods (first half of the 19th c.), it would emerge into an era of great revival and prosperity.
An overview of modern Chinese painting on the mainland can generally be divided into three major systems: Northern China, Eastern China, and Southern China. Artists who took Peiping (Beijing) in the north as their home, such as Qi Huang (Baishi, 1863-1957) and P’u Ju (Hsin-yu, 1896-1963), followed more traditional paths of simplicity and elegance in their works but also formed styles of their own. Such artists as Zhao Zhiqian (1829-1884), Wu Changshi (1844-1927), and Zeng Xi (1861-1930) flourished in prosperous Shanghai, combining the lines of bronze and stone inscriptions with dense ink and colors, forming loose and rich brush manners associated with the Shanghai School. Later artists, including Xu Beihong (1895-1953) and Fu Baoshi (1904-1965), often combined elements of Chinese and Western art, creating novel approaches that innovatively knead native and foreign painting techniques together. As for Canton (Guangzhou) in the south, the seat of the Republican revolution, such Qing artists as Ju Chao (1811-1865) and his cousin formed novel methods of water and powder infusion. In the early Republican era, the artists Gao Jianfu (1879-1951), Gao Qifeng (1889-1936), and Chen Shuren (1884-1948) were three masters who had studied in Japan, developing a new aesthetic of ink and color in the Lingnan School, which has had a major influence even up to the present day
Calligraphy from the middle Qing onwards saw the gradual rise of the Stele School, in which adherents followed the Northern Stele School with vigorous and upright brushwork. Deng Shiru (1743-1805), Ruan Yuan (1764-1849), Bao Shichen (1775-1855), Yang Yisun (1813-1881), Zhao Zhiqian, and Weng Tonghe (1830-1904) are all examples of artists in this field. Early after the establishment of the Republic in 1911, examples of oracle bone as well as bronze and stone script emerged in increasing numbers, the influence of ancient scripts becoming further evident in the calligraphy of this period. Though it was an era of great turmoil, there were still figures with lofty ideals who took time out of their duty to country and delved into calligraphy, instilling their art with great heroic spirit. They included Yu Youren (1879-1964) and Tan Yankai (1880-1930), whose achievements far surpassed those of many of their contemporaries.
This exhibition features a selection of works by renowned masters of modern Chinese painting and calligraphy that have come to the National Palace Museum through purchase, gift, or entrustment in recent years, focusing on the diverse developments that have taken place in Chinese art since the nineteenth century. It is hoped that viewers not only can appreciate these works of art but also come away with a stronger impression of how these pioneers spanning more than a century paved the way for others.