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Mansions for the master

By Lin Qi | China Daily | Updated: 2020-07-03 07:10

Other highlights include Cats. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Wu Weishan, director of the National Art Museum of China, then said the work revealed the humane side of Xu Beihong, who came from a humble background, growing up in rural Jiangsu province in East China. Wu quoted the artist as often saying, "People may have no pride, but cannot live without integrity."

Huang Zuolin, head of Chongqing Normal University's fine arts college, attended the Chongqing museum's opening. Huang says the national spirit can not only be understood in art depicting historic events and notable figures, but it is also well presented in works like Baren Jishui that "show common scenes of daily life to reflect the suffering of people at the grassroots in difficult times, as well as their unyielding courage".

The museum has re-created Xu Beihong's studio and study. And it has opened to the public a basement of some 130 square meters in one of the mansions.

Built with bricks, the basement was where he stored books and took shelter from bombings during wartime. The basement also kept Xu Beihong cool during Chongqing's infamous summer, allowing him to paint and sometimes hold lectures for young artists and meet friends.

He often received noted artists, including Zhang Daqian and Wu Zuoren, there to talk about a future national fine arts academy. Xu Beihong headed the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing from 1946 until his death.

He sought to reform classical Chinese painting by infusing oil-painting approaches and influenced many young artists.

The current exhibition also has dozens of paintings by four other artists-Li Keran, Li Hu, Zong Qixiang and Zhang Anzhi, all of whom were inspired by Xu Beihong to establish their own styles.

Xu Qingping, the son of Xu Beihong, says the new museum is dedicated not just to the memory of his father but also other artists who thought about the well-being of ordinary people and strove for the country's future.

"It stands as a monument to their devotion and tenacity," he says.

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