Focus on China's new epoch of oils

An exhibition in Suzhou, the cradle of modern Chinese oil painting, brings together the works of some of the country's best artists in the field.

Ti Gong

"Minority Woman" by Yang Feiyun

Suzhou, regarded as the cradle of modern Chinese oil painting, is hosting “Focusing on the New Epoch,” an exhibition of highest-quality Chinese canvas the neighboring city has seen since 1949.

On display at the Suzhou Art Museum through May 20 are 76 paintings by leading names, including Yang Feiyun, Wang Yidong, Leng Jun, Chen Shining and Xu Mangyao.

One highlight is the “Studio” series by Leng. Although the scene is a common theme in China and abroad, Leng’s unique ability in the arrangement of the tableau, the elegant hues and his superb painting technique all contribute to a poetic and classic ambiance.

Yan (1893-1988), born in Suzhou, was one of the first generation of Chinese oil painters. A teacher of modern art education, he left an indelible impact on the nation’s modern art history.

Yan was tutored in traditional ink-wash painting as a boy, but his later overseas experience widened his understanding of tableau, colors and content.

He always retained an emotional link to his birthplace and created China’s first arts school, the Suzhou Art College, in 1922.

“Today, Chinese oil paintings cover nearly all the possibilities,” says Yang Feiyun, one of China’s top realistic painters. “Under the new epoch, it is not important that the artists paint a different tableau. For example, Qi Baishi and Huang Binhong are both masters in China’s modern art history. However, it is their tradition deeply rooted in Chinese culture that makes them an indelible name.”

Artists from the Republic of China period (1912-49) are known for higher-level skills because of their early training in traditional Chinese art, which later helped them merge with Western styles.

“I suggest that young Chinese art students focus on the essence of Chinese traditional culture to nurture their own aesthetic taste,” says Wang Kun, editor-in-chief of the Chinese Oil Paintings magazine.

Ti Gong

"Studio" series by Leng Jun

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"Farm Fun" by Pang Maokun

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"Female Artist" by Xu Mangyao



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