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An artist of the people

By Lin Qi | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-23 10:34
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A portrait of ancient poet Du Fu is one of the signature works by Jiang Zhaohe (1904-89) at the ongoing exhibition Gazing Into the Vast Expanse in Beijing. [Photo by TAIKANG ART MUSEUM/CHINA DAILY]

An exhibition of a figure-painting master's work offers an insight into his spiritual world, Lin Qi reports.

Tang Dynasty (618-907) poet Du Fu, who's regarded as one of the greatest, would not have expected to become the subject of an online pop culture trend in 2012, the 1,300th anniversary of his birth year.

People created graffiti-style memos, mostly based on a monochromatic ink portrait of him, to mock or simply for fun, and these went viral on social media. The phenomenon, referred to as "Du Fu is so busy", drew divided responses among the public. Some viewed it disrespectful and others, especially the younger generation, said it was just kidding and meanwhile, gave the eighth-century poet a modern revival.

The reason that many people chose the same portrait to create was because the work appeared in middle school textbooks to go with one of Du's poems, and it would pop up in people's minds once the poet was mentioned.

Few noticed, though, that it was Jiang Zhaohe (1904-89) who made this signature portraiture that became so widely circulated.

And they would be even more surprised to know that Jiang used his own face as the model for his imagined portrait of Du.

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