Exhibition in Shanghai puts focus on figures

By Lin Qi | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-08-27 16:18
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A Copy of the Handscroll of Nyushi Zhen, by Yu Fei'an. [Photo/Courtesy of Long Museum]

Figure paintings, as a category of classical Chinese painting, appeared much earlier than the iconic mountain-and-water and flower-and-bird genres.

First appearing on pottery and in caves, then on silk and paper, figure paintings reached their peak during the Sui (581-618) and Tang (618-907) dynasties. Fine examples include Figure, Dragon and Phoenix, a silk painting from the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) and Nyushi Zhen ("Admonitions of the Instructress to the Court Ladies"), a handscroll painting dated between the fifth and seventh centuries AD. The role of figure paintings was mainly educational, to communicate high morality and ethnics.

The rich traditions and evolution of classical figure paintings are navigated at an exhibition underway at Long Museum's West Bund space until Dec 12. On show are dozens of storytelling paintings by some 20 modern artists known for depicting figures and showing the interior lives of their subjects. The subjects of the works on show were sourced from fairy tales, historic events, classical literature and texts and folk operas.

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