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The retrospective exhibition presents a comprehensive view from the oeuvre of Qi Baishi, an outstanding master of 20th-century Chinese painting. At the first show of its kind in Europe, some 110 paintings from the artist’s estate are displayed.
Qi Baishi (Tsi Pai-shi, 1864-1957) had earned his initial fame as a wood- and seal-carver, when, in mid-life, he turned to painting. With his pictures of birds and flowers, and his bold and creative use of colour, he broadened the horizons of traditional Chinese imagery. He was fascinated even by the tiniest phenomena of nature and painted simple motifs around him: flowers, vegetables, fruits and animals, especially crabs, fish, frogs and insects. His compositions are distinguished by a marked use of calligraphy.
Qi Baishi committed himself to traditional Chinese brush painting at a time when his contemporaries turned their attention towards western artistic trends. The over one hundred works displayed at the Budapest show allow visitors to follow the changes in the Chinese master’s career. Besides landscapes and figurative works, the core of the exhibition is formed by the masterpieces from his mature period, after his change of style, represented by depictions of plants and birds.
Qi Baishi’s paintings found their way to Europe in the 1930s. In Hungary, twenty-nine of his pictures were displayed in 1930 at the Chinese Fine Art Exhibition of the National Salon in Budapest, where in 1938 he was already featured by as many as fifty-three paintings.
A special part of the Budapest exhibition is a selection from Qi Baishi’s works preserved in the Ferenc Hopp Museum of Asiatic Arts, Budapest, counting a dozen paintings and eighty woodcuts. The first works by the artist entered the collection in the early 1930s as a donation by the painter Vojtech Chytil (1896-1936), professor at the Beijing Fine Art Academy. The six works that are on display at the exhibition include Qi Baishi’s paintings of crabs and fish, regarded as his masterpieces.
The exhibition in the Hungarian National Gallery is the first in Europe to present the ouvre of the master who was an innovator of modern Chinese painting.
Images: Copyright Beijing Fine Art Academy
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