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Painter with a pulse

By Wang Kaihao | China Daily | Updated: 2018-07-24 08:03
One of Qi Baishi's paintings on show features fish and chicks. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Qi Baishi's works are on display at the Palace Museum, in a rare show of a modern Chinese artist at the venue, Wang Kaihao reports.

While Qi Baishi (1864-1957) is a household name in China, an exhibition of his paintings was last held at the Palace Museum in Beijing, or the Forbidden City, 64 years ago.

The museum, which was the seat of the royal court in imperial China from 1420 to 1911, is hosting Prosperity in Tranquility: The Art of Qi Baishi, a show on the modern artist, with some 200 of his paintings and seals exhibited at the Meridian Gate Gallery since last week. The exhibits are both from the museum's own collection and that of the Beijing Fine Art Academy.

For the general public, Qi's best-known works are his paintings of shrimps, due to the many legends on how he created them. As a result, many of his paintings of shrimps, crabs and fish are on display at the ongoing exhibition.

In 1960, Baby Tadpoles Look for Their Mother, China's first ink-and-water animation film that was inspired by Qi's other paintings, won praise abroad.

"In his early years, Qi drew shrimps to mostly learn from ancient painters," Xue Liang, a researcher with the Beijing Fine Art Academy, says. "But he later developed a personal style by using shades of dark ink to reflect the texture of a shrimp's body, giving its antennas an almost real-life feel."

Nevertheless, Qi's works went beyond aquatic life.

"Qi Baishi is the representative artist of Chinese art in the 20th century," says Wu Hongliang, deputy director of the Beijing Fine Art Academy.

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