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The time of their lives

By Lin Qi | China Daily | Updated: 2019-09-30 10:00

Even Higher, Even Further, acrylic on canvas, created by Yu Hong, who is a professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, in 2015. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Images depicted by artists reflect dramatic changes in society.

Wu Weishan, director of the National Art Museum of China in Beijing, says he loves to stroll around the museum and watch how the audience reacts to the exhibits on show.

"People visit museums to enjoy beautiful works of art. For me, the sight of people coming to the museum is more beautiful than any of the works on display," Wu says.

A prominent sculptor in his own right, Wu initiated a program in 2017 to invite people from different walks of life - teachers, scientists, farmers and military veterans - to come to the museum and sit as "role models" for portraits by Wu and a group of other sculptors.

The resulting works have been periodically exhibited in public.

Wu says the role of ordinary people has always been one of the subjects central to the creation of Chinese art over the past seven decades.

The range of images of people depicted by artists have become increasingly diverse over the years, reflecting the dramatic changes in Chinese society, and are apparent in the iconic works on display in the collections of museums and important public exhibitions - such as the National Exhibition of Fine Arts, which has been held for 12 sessions since 1949.

And this realistic approach has also been at the heart of the evolution in the artworks that portray the day-today lives and mentality of ordinary Chinese people.

Zheng Gong, an academician at the Chinese National Academy of Arts, says that when people think about the art created between the 1950s and '70s, the paintings and posters that often spring to mind are works depicting workers, farmers and soldiers - the primary figures that represent the country's push for social development after decades of war and chaos.

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