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Between Two Cultures: Late Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Chinese Paintings from the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Between Two Cultures: Late Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Chinese Paintings from the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Fong, Wen C.
2001
300 pages
234 illustrations
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Between Two Cultures, by Wen C. Fong, based on a selection of modern Chinese paintings from the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, explores the crucial period from the 1860s to about 1980, when Chinese painting was transformed into a modern expression of its classical heritage. Unlike classical Chinese painting dating from before 1860, which has commanded in-depth study from a learned and sophisticated audience in the West, modern Chinese painting has been little explored. The first comprehensive assemblage in the West of paintings on this subject, the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection comprises works in the classical Chinese medium of ink on paper and in the traditional formats of scrolls, album leaves, and fans.

The volume deals with both traditionalist and modernizing Chinese masters from the comparative perspectives of East and West, traditional and modern. Dr. Fong begins his exploration with the last revival of traditional Chinese art, that of the epigraphic school of painting, and the rise of a populist art in the late-nineteenth- and early twentieth century in the cosmopolitan city of Shanghai. His discussion continues with painters who absorbed the lessons of Western realism, which they viewed as part of Western science and technology. Special attention is devoted to Xu Beihong (1895–1953) and Fu Baoshi (1904–1965), who followed the teachings, respectively, of the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the Japanese Nihonga style. The work of three great traditionalist masters, Qi Baishi (1863–1957), Huang Binhong (1865–1955), and Zhang Daqian (1899–1983), is also analyzed, with emphasis placed on Qi and Zhang as professional populist painters. This is followed by a discussion of painting in mainland China from about 1950 to the 1980s by the second generation of artists and teachers in the national academies. These painters, having been trained by traditionalist and Western-style teachers, developed their own schools of influence in their search for a new synthesis of Chinese and Western methods.

One of the central questions posed in the book is, What is "modern" in twentieth-century Chinese painting? Some view modernity as the Westernization of Chinese art; others search for elements of modernity in Chinese painting history. The book closes with the author's own reflections on realism, expression, and modernity and, more specifically, the question of creativity in both traditional and modern Chinese painting.

Met Art in Publication

Night-Shining White, Han Gan  Chinese, Handscroll; ink on paper, China
ca. 750
Twin Pines, Level Distance, Zhao Mengfu  Chinese, Handscroll; ink on paper, China
ca. 1310
Returning Home, Shitao (Zhu Ruoji)  Chinese, Album of twelve leaves; ink and color on paper, China
ca. 1695
Portrait of Zhao Zhiqian, Wang Yuan  Chinese, Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper, China
dated 1871
Peony, Zhao Zhiqian  Chinese, Folding fan mounted as an album leaf; ink and color on gold-flecked paper, China
dated 1862
Peach Blossoms and Peony, Zhao Zhiqian  Chinese, Folding fan mounted as an album leaf; ink and color on gold-flecked paper, China
ca. 1860
Squirrel on an Autumn Branch, Xugu (Zhu Huairen)  Chinese, Folding fan mounted as an album leaf; ink and color on alum paper, China
ca. 1880s
Vase of Flowers, Chen Hongshou  Chinese, Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk, China
Sailing in Autumn, Xugu (Zhu Huairen)  Chinese, Album leaf; ink and color on paper, China
dated 1893
Bird on a Rock by a Flowering Branch, Ren Xun  Chinese, Folding fan mounted as an album leaf; ink and color on alum paper, China
dated 1879
Finches and bamboo, Emperor Huizong  Chinese, Handscroll; ink and color on silk, China
early 12th century
Figures, flowers, and landscapes, Chen Hongshou  Chinese, Album of eleven leaves; ink and color on silk, China
one leaf dated 1627
Scholar in the Wind, Ren Xun  Chinese, Folding fan mounted as an album leaf; ink and color on alum paper, China
ca. 1880
Scholar on a rock, Ren Yi (Ren Bonian)  Chinese, Folding fan mounted as an album leaf; ink and color on paper, China
ca. 1880
Cranes, Pine Tree, and Lichen, Ren Yi (Ren Bonian)  Chinese, Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper, China
dated 1885
Man on a Bridge, Ren Yi (Ren Bonian)  Chinese, Hanging scroll; ink on bark paper, China
dated 1889
Herdboy and Buffalo, Ren Yi (Ren Bonian)  Chinese, Folding fan mounted as an album leaf; ink and color on alum paper, China
dated 1890
Buddha of Longevity, Ren Yu  Chinese, Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper, China
dated 1917
Meditation in a Cave, Ren Yu  Chinese, Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper, China
Blossoming Plum, Li Ruiqing  Chinese, Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper, China
ca. 1915
Showing 20 of 97

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Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), and Wen Fong, eds. 2001. Between Two Cultures: Late-Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Chinese Paintings from the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York : New Haven: Metropolitan Museum of Art ; Yale University Press [distributor].