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Museum frames city's art heritage

Updated: 2023-03-02 08:02 ( CHINA DAILY )
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The exterior of Taicang Art Museum. CHINA DAILY

Opening of facility pays homage to Taicang's crucial role in story of painting, Deng Zhangyu reports.

A prosperous city with a history dating back more than 4,500 years and also a creative hub for many well-known Chinese ink masters, Taicang in Jiangsu province embraced its first art museum at the beginning of this year.

Its inauguration show, Tides Surging in the East of Yangtze, offers a glimpse into the 400-year development of ink paintings since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) when a school dedicated to the discipline in Loudong (meaning the east bank of the Loujiang River) was established in Taicang.

The show, occupying the three-story garden-like museum, displays hundreds of ink paintings of various styles by masters at different periods in Chinese art history. It has four parts: Exhibitions of Masterpieces of the Loudong Painting School; Classics of the Century — Exhibition by Twentieth-Century Chinese Art Masters: New Era, New Spirit; Invitational Exhibition of Contemporary Artists; and German Painting Art Exhibition.

"Taicang Art Museum is a county-level city art museum, and it is rare in China for such a small museum to present such a comprehensive show of Chinese paintings, from ancient ink paintings to modern ink, in such a large exhibition space," says Wu Hongliang, academic curator of the show. He is also director of the Beijing Fine Art Academy.

"It will take viewers half a day to go through these rich contents and audiences will finally have a deep impression of the city's cultural abundance."

The section of masterpieces of the Loudong painting school displays 45 works by representative masters of the school loaned from Tianjin Museum. The school was established about 400 years ago in Taicang, the starting point for Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) navigator Zheng He's seven voyages to the Western Seas. It is represented by four established artists all surnamed Wang; Wang Shimin, Wang Hui, Wang Jian and Wang Yuanqi. These four together with Wu Li and Yun Shouping are the "Six Masters of the Qing Dynasty".

Wang Shimin represented the first generation of Loudong style. The scholar-painter was good at imitating masters' artwork. Copying masters' pieces is a common practice in Chinese ink painting and is also considered as an important part of an artist's training and development. It involves carefully studying and replicating the techniques, brushstrokes and style of a master's work. The Loudong school represented by Wang Shimin was an artistic "peak", says Wu, the curator.

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