Strokes of genius

By Lin Qi | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-12-08 08:32
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Landscape with Calligraphy by Liu Haisu. [Photo provided to China Daily]

At the exhibition, there are formal examples written in various scripts and of various sizes, and there are also pieces for private use, such as letters, drafts, notes and other kinds of manuscripts, which offer a glimpse into his extensive interest and social life.

Liu Haisu's calligraphic mastery was achieved through years of practice and thorough study of Chinese characters of different kinds, including those on oracle bones, archaic bronzes, primitive stone drums and rocks and stones.

Liu Chan mentions that a highlight of the show is the juxtaposition of several pieces featuring her father's motto — jingshen wangu, qijie qianzai, literally, "long last the noble spirit and integrity" — made at different periods of time. She says the motto mattered a lot to her father and encouraged him quite often during his lifetime.

"He liked to write it, he wrote it again and again," Liu Chan says. "He said all arts were created out of one's noble spirit, and those who made art should also be of high morality."

Liu Haisu learned calligraphy in childhood, before he even learned to draw. Later, in Shanghai, he was introduced to Kang Youwei, a renowned reformist scholar and calligrapher, under whose discipline he improved greatly in both calligraphy and poetry.

"Liu's calligraphy is rhythmic and has the beauty of structure. He integrated the many scripts he practiced to create a new, distinctive style," says Wu Weishan, director of the NAMOC.

He says that while the formal works deliver majesty, the poems and letters Liu Haisu wrote show the delicate feelings and innocence in his character, and his strokes show a poetic sensibility and a painterly beauty, as forcefully as the way a dragon makes waves in the sea, and "which have generated a sound, deep resonance in people's hearts".

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