Qi Baishi (1864-1957)
Seasons of an Artist
Museum für Asiatische Kunst
Current display in the Gallery of Modern Chinese Painting
Qi Baishi was one of the most important Chinese artists of the 20th century and no other painter in the history of the People's Republic of China has received as many honours and awards as he did. Of humble roots, Qi Baishi initially worked as a carpenter and woodcarver. Thanks to his enormous talent and sophisticated artistic mind, he managed to renew the stagnant painterly conventions that prevailed at the start of his career. Despite his phenomenal success, he did not abandon his peasant sensibilities and maintained an unpretentious view of the unobtrusive details of everyday life, making a decisive contribution to their recognition as worthy subjects for the art of painting.
The hallmark Qi Baishi style, which he only perfected in the second half of his long life, is characterized by a powerful, spontaneous handling of the brush, which combines the rigor and linearity of the archaic inscriptions in stone and metal with casual, free brushwork. Qi Baishi was also an important calligraphist and seal carver. His legacy was not limited to art, as he was also the author of several hundred poems. He stands as the indisputable giant of 20th-century Chinese painting, seal-carving, and calligraphy. Today his works fetch record sums at auction.
Marking the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his birth, the Museum für Asiatische Kunst proudly presents most of the 19 pictures by Qi Baishi in its possession, whose subjects are primarily arranged according to the seasons. The selection of paintings is enriched by loans, including seals, and several woodcuts made after originals by the artist. The latter stand as a testament of the enormous attention his art generated, with their popularity further fuelled by a proliferation of reproductions in woodcut. The display includes a portrait of Qi Baishi as an old man in the form of a woodcut by Huang Yongyu (born 1924). That work is joined by the new accession of two oil paintings by Zhao Zhao (born 1982). Zhao is an admirer of the old master, a fact that is also reflected in his choice of subject matter.
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