Qi Baishi’s art on ex­hibit in Cal­i­for­nia

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By LIA ZHU in San Fran­cisco li­azhu@chinadailyusa.com

US au­di­ences have the chance to view the art­work of Qi Baishi, the Chi­nese artist who has out­sold Pablo Pi­casso and Andy Warhol in the global art mar­ket.

An ex­hi­bi­tion, Qi Baishi: China’s Mod­ern Mas­ter, is on dis­play at Bow­ers Mu­seum, in Santa Ana, Cal­i­for­nia, un­til July 11.

Qi Baishi ( 1864-1957), born into a peas­ant fam­ily in Hu­nan prov­ince, be­came a car­pen­ter at 14 and be­gan study­ing art at 27. Af­ter trav­el­ing through­out China, he set­tled in Bei­jing in his late 50s and de­vel­oped a unique style, boldly blend­ing his mark as an in­di­vid­ual with tra­di­tional Chi­nese paint­ing meth­ods.

More than 50 items of his art, in­clud­ing scroll paint­ings, cal­ligra­phies, seals and wood carv­ings, were se­lected from China’s Hu­nan Pro­vin­cial Mu­seum, re­flect­ing the artist’s early ca­reer as a fig­ure and land­scape painter to the paint­ings from the zenith of his ca­reer that fa­vored quick, ex­pres­sion­is­tic images of an­i­mals, flow­ers and food, ac­cord­ing to Anne Shih, chair­woman of the board at Bow­ers Mu­seum, who hand­picked the art­works.

“This ex­hi­bi­tion is aimed not only to pay trib­ute to this great artist, but also to help a larger Amer­i­can au­di­ence to learn about tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture through the mas­ter­pieces, and build a bridge be­tween Chi­nese and the US cul­tural ex­changes,” Shih said.

“It is also a rare op­por­tu­nity for the Amer­i­can au­di­ence, as it marks the first time that this col­lec­tion has been ex­hib­ited in the United States,” Shih told China Daily.

Due to a lim­i­ta­tion of funds, this ex­hi­bi­tion was made avail­able to the Bow­ers Mu­seum by an ex­change. First Amer­i­cans: Tribal Art of North Amer­ica, which con­tains more than 100 Amer­i­can In­dian ar­ti­facts from the Bow­ers col­lec­tion, is on loan to the Hu­nan mu­seum from March 27 to May 27.

“And be­cause a new build­ing is be­ing con­structed at the Hu­nan mu­seum, the art­works are tem­po­rar­ily put away in a store­house,” she said. “When the new build­ing is com­pleted, the artist’s works will be dis­played there and never on loan again.”

Among the most no­table ex­hibits of Qi’s at Bow­ers is a wood carv­ing, which was cre­ated dur­ing the artist’s early ex­plor­ing pe­riod when he worked as a car­pen­ter.

“It’s a sig­nif­i­cant part of his artis­tic growth, and few col­lec­tors have such kind of works,” said Shih.

The au­di­ence’s pos­i­tive feed­back has ex­ceeded the or­ga­nizer’s ex­pec­ta­tions, ac­cord­ing to Ching Chausse, a guide at the Bow­ers Mu­seum.

Maybe it’s be­cause of his hum­ble be­gin­nings, the sub­jects of Qi Baishi’s paint­ings in­clude al­most ev­ery­thing com­monly found in daily life, such as birds, in­sects, veg­eta­bles and toys, re­lat­able to all peo­ple, she said.

“The Amer­i­can au­di­ence is most fas­ci­nated by his in­te­gra­tion of tra­di­tional Chi­nese paint­ing with im­pres­sion­is­tic style,” said Chausse, who re­ceived train­ing for the ex­hi­bi­tion be­fore it opened on April 11.

“He up­held a the­ory that ‘paint­ings must be some­thing be­tween like­ness and un­like­ness’,” she said. “That’s why his paint­ings are en­joyed by the vul­gar and ad­mired by the re­fined as well.”

In his later years, he painted shrimp and even mice and frogs, which the tra­di­tional pain­ters would not de­pict. “It’s a break­through from the tra­di­tional school,” Chausse said.

Qi was com­pared to Au­guste Rodin, pub­licly ad­mired by Pi­casso, and who in­flu­enced the work of many artists, in­clud­ing Isamu Noguchi.

In 2011, Qi’s 952 art­works tal­lied $445.1 mil­lion at auc­tion, plac­ing him sec­ond on Art­price’s list of top five artists by an­nual auc­tion rev­enue. Pi­casso ranked fourth at $311.6 mil­lion.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A vis­i­tor views the paint­ings of Qi Baishi dur­ing the four-month ex­hi­bi­tion Mu­seum in Santa Ana, Cal­i­for­nia, un­til July 11.

on dis­play at Bow­ers

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