Chinese Art in an Age of Revolution Fu Baoshi (1904–1965)

When 21 Jan 2012 - 15 Apr 2012
Where The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY
United States

Fu Baoshi, Shi Le Seeking the Way (detail), probably 1945. Courtesy of the artist

January 21 – April 15 2012

Press Release:

Perhaps the most original figure painter and landscapist of China’s modern period, Fu Baoshi created indelible images celebrating his homeland’s cultural heritage while living through one of the most devastating periods in Chinese history. He was eight years old in 1912 when China’s last imperial dynasty was overthrown and the Chinese Republic was established. He subsequently witnessed the divisive warlord era and Communist rebellion of the 1920s, the Japanese invasion and occupation of eastern China from 1937 to 1945, and the Communist Revolution and establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Over the last fifteen years of his life, his art reflected China’s political transformation under Mao Zedong. Throughout his career, however, Fu remained one of China’s great individualist masters. This exhibition treats Fu’s forty-year career with some seventy paintings, including many of the artist’s recognized masterpieces, drawn from the preeminent holdings of China’s Nanjing Museum. The exhibition, augmented by superb works from a New York private collection, is the most comprehensive treatment of the artist’s oeuvre ever presented outside of Asia.

Trained in both China and Japan at a time when arts education stressed the need for the modernization of indigenous traditions through the study of Western methods, Fu developed a new style incorporating foreign styles and techniques, and began creating boldly individualistic and strongly nationalistic work. Noting that Chinese painting had evolved toward too great a dependency on monochromatic, calligraphic brushwork, Fu sought to revive earlier traditions of realistic description that made greater use of color and ink wash. He also stressed the need for an artist to be emotionally and physically present in his art. To achieve this end, Fu often painted while inebriated. He also sought spontaneity through a spattered-ink method of painting—a kind of “action art” that parallels the working methods of some of the Abstract Expressionists.

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