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January 18, 2020

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Suzhou Picture Exhibition’s centenary celebration

HOLDING a document art exhibition is always difficult because historical materials and old paintings don’t usually resonate with today’s visitors.

However, “Looking Back at Jiangnan” could buck that trend. It is an exhibition to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Suzhou Picture Exhibition.

Currently on display at Suzhou Art Museum through February 16, the display endeavors to attract visitors through a well-designed exhibiting mode and divided space for an overview of the early art education scene in China which collided between the West and the East.

Whether it’s antiquated photos, copies of old newspapers, paintings created in the last century, or the digital screening of related historical background, they all conjure up a bygone era for visitors.

Suzhou Picture Exhibition was the first national art exhibition in China.

It ran from 1919 to 1951 with 25 editions.

It is also widely recognized as one of the most influential national art exhibitions in China’s modern art history.

“Suzhou Picture Exhibition actually laid a cornerstone for a modern art exhibition in the country. And it also promoted the opening of China’s first art museum in 1927 in Suzhou,” said Cao Jun, director at Suzhou Art Museum, “Furthermore, it enabled art to enter into the public domain rather than just for a small elite circle.”

The exhibit gives a retrospective view of how the exhibition came into being.

In 1918, Chinese artist Yan Wenliang got together with several other painters and scholars, such as Jin Songceng and Xu Yongqing, and co-founded the Suzhou Picture Exhibition in order to revive Chinese fine art and improve art appreciation.

On January 1, 1919, the first Suzhou Picture Exhibition was held and the artworks varied from ink-wash paintings, watercolors to charcoal painting and embroidery.

A local daily newspaper recorded that nearly 500 visitors frequented the exhibition every day over for 14 days.

“The historical materials, or the paintings displayed, by the artists, who had participated in the Suzhou Picture Exhibition, all tell a legend of it,” Cao said.

“It broke the private assembly of literati to appreciate art, instead forming an exhibition mode to allow a more public space.”


Date: 9am-4pm, closed on Monday, through February 16

Address: 2075 Renmin Road


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