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The art of giving

By Lin Qi | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-08-08 08:09

The exhibition at the National Art Museum of China shows selected paintings from Deng Tuo's former collection. It includes Peony and Silver Pheasants (above) by 15th-century artist Lyu Ji. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The current exhibition, An Intellectual's Commitment to Cultural Inheritance, running through Aug 25, gathers more than 70 paintings from Deng's collection. He acquired a large part of the artworks after 1959 when he led a team responsible for the construction of the National Museum of Chinese History, now the National Museum of China in Beijing. The role allowed him an exposure to varied categories of Chinese antiques, including classic paintings and calligraphy works.

Wu Weishan, director of the National Art Museum, says the collection reflects Deng's cultural accumulation and a broad vision of history.

"The works in his donation include, basically, the most important painters and schools of Chinese painting in history, showing the scope and the evolution in the styles and techniques of Chinese art," he says.

Wu says the collection also offers clues to the development of literati painting, featuring those renowned intellectual-painter collectives such as "the four masters of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368)", the Wumen (Suzhou and neighboring areas) school and the Yangzhou school.

Literati painting, or wenrenhua, was an integral part of the system of Chinese painting. It was viewed as an ideal form of expression among scholar-painters, who, when depicting natural elements, prioritized a reflection of individual erudition and alter ego over the subjects' physical attractiveness.

"Deng's collection shows his interest was not only collecting but also authenticating and appreciation, which is essential to the commitment of a scholar-collector in Chinese cultural traditions," Wu adds.

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