Graced by Nature: A Special Exhibition of Yu Yu-jen's Calligraphy,Period, 2017/06/01 to 2017/08/27, Galleries 105 107

Yu Yu-jen (1879-1964) was a native of Sanyuan in Shaanxi whose ancestors came from Jingyang. Originally named Boxun, he also later used the name Yu-jen, by which he became known, and the late sobriquet Taiping laoren. He was an important calligrapher and political figure of modern times. In his early years, Yu Yu-jen was inspired by a private school teacher to focus on traditional Modelbook Studies calligraphy. Yu was also a reformist, who, after the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911, later served the Republic as Shaanxi Commander of National Forces. While there, he had the opportunity to study many steles, becoming enamored with the Northern Stele manner of calligraphy that formed the basis of his own unique style of stele script. In doing so, Yu did not deliberately seek powerful sharpness to the lines in his stele script, but neither did he intentionally create exaggerated character forms. Instead, his manner naturally evolved into a broad and archaic manner with a majestic atmosphere that paved the way to break the trend towards rigidity seen in Stele Studies of the late Qing and early Republican period.

Then, in 1931, Yu Yu-jen established the Cursive Script Society in Shanghai, embarking on the study and organization of Chinese cursive script through the ages. He strived at practicing and promoting standardized cursive script in the hope of saving people's time and effort in writing while enhancing national competitiveness, demonstrating a traditional Confucian ideal of putting art to practical use. This monumental shift from stele to standardized cursive script not only echoed Yu Yu-jen's earlier bold initiative in joining the revolution to overthrow the Qing, it also gave cursive script new meaning and direction in modern times. In terms of calligraphy, Yu advocated the following: "By no means innovate merely to create something that looks beautiful but actually goes against Nature." This, in fact, is a perfect expression of his own cursive script. Be it the strokes, lines, and structures of individual characters or the overall line spacing and arrangement, all appear organized just right to reach an ultimate in calligraphy that accords with Nature.

This special exhibition features a wide assortment of calligraphy by Yu Yu-jen donated to or purchased by the National Palace Museum. It also includes many works that he did prior to arriving in Taiwan, providing a full assessment of his accomplishments in both stele and cursive scripts. Befriending a wide variety of people throughout his life, the recipients of Yu's calligraphy were many. Never ceasing to pick up the brush, he thus left behind a large number of works. This exhibition is arranged mainly based on the development of his calligraphy and divided into different sections to highlight certain aspects of his art, such as reciprocating with friends, daily exercises, and family heirlooms of calligraphy. Together, they present Yu Yu-jen from various perspectives, such as social networking, material culture, and stylistic development, offering a new understanding to the cultural import and calligraphic attainment of this modern master.