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December 2, 2020

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Zhang Shuqi, a master of bird-and-flower painting

A total of 86 works by painter Zhang Shuqi have been on display at the National Museum of China in Beijing since mid-October to commemorate the 120th anniversary of the late artist’s birth.

The exhibition, titled “Sparse Shadows and Faint Fragrances,” is scheduled to run until December 16.

Born in 1900 in east China’s Zhejiang Province, Zhang dedicated his life to the study and creation of bird-and-flower paintings. Zhang, together with his contemporaries Xu Beihong and Liu Zigu, were called the Three Masters of Jinling (Nanjing). He combined the Western color theory and realistic painting style with the unique skills of traditional Chinese bird-and-flower painting.

Notably, Zhang was adept at applying white pigment, and could create five tonal variations by altering the density of his ink.

Zhang traveled to the United States in 1941 and held dozens of art exhibitions in museums, galleries and universities there.

During his tour, Zhang not only made efforts to introduce Chinese culture to the local, but also sent his earnings back to China to support his motherland in the war of resistance against Japanese aggression.

According to Shu Jianhua, curator of the Silicon Valley Asian Art Center, the donated amount totaled roughly US$40,000.

Zhang passed away in 1957 in northern California. “In this life, death will claim us all, whether sooner or later. Yet the future of the motherland is bright, and I fear I may never lay eyes upon her again,” he wrote during the last days of his life.

In a painting completed in the 1950s, Zhang depicted a wild goose flying away while five others remaining on the shore.

“Obviously, Zhang was implying he missed his friends such as Fu Baoshi and Pan Tianshou,” said Shu. “China always held a special place in his heart.”

Zhang’s son, Gordon H. Chang, said his father was anguished that he would never see China again before his death, and the exhibition in Beijing was a kind of consolation.

“I knew of my father’s efforts to promote China-US relations during the war against Japanese aggression, and I admired his efforts. I wanted to contribute to improving international relations myself,” said Chang, an American historian at Stanford University.

The Chang family has donated three representative works of Zhang to the National Museum of China.




 

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