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The region south of the Five Ridges in Guangdong is commonly referred to as "South of the Ridges," or Lingnan. In the late Qing dynasty, the opening of Guangzhou as a trading port and other external developments led to a turning point for revolutionary change in the practice of art in Lingnan area, which was accompanied by the appearance of many promising and talented painters. The fame of Lingnan artists quickly spread to equal those in Shanghai and the Beijing-Tianjin area, forming a triumvirate with them. Painters in Lingnan leapt to the forefront of art circles to form a core group in southern China.

The innovations in modern Lingnan painting can be traced to two progenitors, the cousins Ju Chao (1811-1865) and Ju Lian (1828-1904). Both natives of Geshan Village in Panyu, Guangdong, their painting style continued in the "boneless" tradition of color washes employed by the early Qing painter Yun Shouping (1633-1690), but in terms of subject matter and methods of expression, they branched out on their own. They specialized in the techniques of adding water and powder to still-drying washes, demonstrating full command of various changes to the subjects depicted. Gao Jianfu (1879-1951), Gao Qifeng (1889-1933), and Chen Shuren (1884-1948) were their most famous followers, becoming known as the "Three Masters of Lingnan." All three traveled to Japan and studied art there, selecting from the realism and bright colors prevalent in Japanese painting at the time. After returning to China, they took up the revolutionary slogan of "Balancing Chinese and foreign, blending ancient and modern" in the early Republican era, confronting traditional art that laid emphasis on imitating the ancients. The impact of the Lingnan School's "new Chinese painting" on contemporary art circles, however, was not limited to Guangzhou, but also spread to Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, where many followers emerged and continue to the present day.

This is the first exhibition by the National Palace Museum dealing with the Lingnan School of painting, focusing on representative works by the Lingnan founders Gao Jianfu, Gao Qifeng, and Chen Shuren. At the same time, the exhibit also looks back to the Lingnan forerunners Ju Chao and Ju Lian while culminating with four second-generation followers--Zhao Shao'ang (1905-1998), Li Xiongcai (1910-2001), Guan Shanyue (1912-2000), and Yang Shanshen (1913-2004). Together, they represent a spectrum of Lingnan School painting from its origins to its later developments. This display is divided into the four categories of "Figures," "Birds, Flowers, Fish, and Insects," "Birds of Prey and Other Animals," and "Landscapes," featuring a total of 90 works from the collections of the Guangzhou Museum of Art, the Lingnan Fine Arts Museum at Academia Sinica, Yicui Shantang, and the National Palace Museum. As viewers admire the beauty of these works, they can also appreciate the rich variety of artistic expression found in the Lingnan School.