Man on the street

By Wu Liping (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-04-14 07:37

Yelling salesmen are rarely heard these days, however, their voices bellowed out in the hutong of old Beijing. Renowned artist Chen Shiceng (1876-1923) has captured such scenes in his new exhibition, which is now on show at the National Art Museum.

Entitled Beijing Old Custom, the exhibition features 34 ink-and-brush figure paintings created by Chen during 1914 and 1915.

Studying ordinary people, Chen's paintings portray everyday life as it was nearly a century ago. Storytellers are shown performing, accompanied by danxianr (single-stringed instrument) players. Venders sell sticks of sugar-coated haws, while a knife-sharpener with a long bench wields tools.

The compositions are simple and vivid. Brush lines are employed to depict the contour of the figures and their facial features, while dark or light washed ink are applied on the clothes and objects.

Colors, including umber and sienna, are used for the faces, adding vitality for the overall effect.

Because figure paintings in the early 20th century were mainly concerned with beauty and religion, Chen found it difficult to gain recognition for his depictions of common workers. Born in Jiangxi province, Chen studied overseas at an early age, learning both Chinese and Western painting techniques. On his return, Chen lived in Beijing as a fine arts teacher and developed an interest in the local culture and customs, later becoming a key figure of Jing School, a popular painting style in early 20th century China.

Chen also produced landscape and flower-and-bird paintings.

9 am-5 pm, until May 2
National Art Museum of China, 1 Wusi Dajie, Dongcheng District

(China Daily 04/12/2008 page6)