Works by acclaimed painter on display

Updated 2018-04-24 09:52:03

Chinese ink painter He Haixia's work Dreams Come True is on display at Beijing's Guardian Art Center.

The easiest way now to get a glimpse of China's natural beauty on canvas in one place is to go visit the ongoing retrospective show of ink painter He Haixia (1908-1998), who is said to be one of China's best landscape painters of the 20th century.

From the palm trees of South China's Hainan province and the sharp mountains of Southwest China's Sichuan province to the strangely shaped stones of East China's Zhejiang province and the gorgeous Yellow River in North China, they are all covered in He Haixia's 110 paintings on display at Beijing's Guardian Art Center.

The majority of paintings in the exhibition focus on landscapes, covering scenes commonly depicted by Chinese painters.

Besides the landscapes, the artist's paintings of birds and flowers, figures, and calligraphy are also on show.

Known for his large-format blue-and-green landscape paintings, the artist was often invited to paint for the Great Hall of the People and the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. And his long scrolls are still seen at these venues.

The highlight of the show is a 3-meter long painting called Dreams Come True produced by He at the age of 81, depicting a forest using techniques such as gongbi (painting with detailed brushstrokes) and splashed colors, a Chinese painting technique He learned from his teacher Zhang Daqian, one of the most prodigious Chinese artists of the 20th century.

He Haixia became the modern Chinese master ink painter's student at the age of 27, after he drew a portrait for Zhang. And the next year, in 1936, the young student took part in a group show featuring four artists, including his teacher and another master painter Qi Baishi.

He Haixia accompanied Zhang on tours around China, visiting mountains to gain inspiration. And he was able to see lots of paintings by ancient master painters, which were in a collection owned by Zhang.

There are traces of Zhang in He's works, but he also had his own style, wrote ink painter Huang Yongyu in an article published in 1983, where he said that he once mistook He's work for his teacher's.

Huang said He could paint more than 200 types of trees in different ways, something that could not be taught but was rooted in his careful observation of life.

The artist's excellence in landscape paintings came from his travels across China, and even outside the country in his later years.

At the exhibition, there are works depicting Japan's temples and cherry trees, which were produced based on He's visits to some Japanese artists in the 1990s.

Recalling his father-in-law's painting process, Lyu Yafang, He's son-in-law, says that when the artist talked with his wife about places they had visited, he would immediately turn to painting if he had not produced a work about the place they were discussing.

Even when the artist was in his 70s, he would squat on his heels to paint on a long landscape scroll on the ground, a process which required a lot of stamina.

He Haixia was born in Beijing, but missed out on the chance of a formal education due to poverty.

So, he was taught calligraphy at home by his father, and went on to learn ink painting with painter Han Gongdian.

Meeting master painter Zhang was a turning point in his career.

Speaking about the artist's life and times, Chen Lyusheng, the former deputy head of the National Museum of China, says: "He Haixia was a key student of Zhang and keen on promoting Zhang's landscape skills. But he had his own style too."

If you go10 am-6 pm, through April 26. Guardian Art Center, 1 Wangfujing Dajie, Dongcheng district, Beijing. 010-6518-9968

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