The history of Chinese oil painting has its real beginnings in the early decades of the last century. It is a relatively short period of artistic experimentation, yet what we see today in Chinese oil paintings is an awesome range of diverse styles and a major attempt to enter the discourse of the contemporary art world.
In autumn of 1976, with the end of the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), Chinese society entered a new era when Chinese oil painting gained more space to grow.
Between 1977 and 1979, Chinese oil art was in a time of recovery. Between 1979 and 1985, Chinese oil painting gathered steam and artists found their voices in portraying on-going, pulsating waves of "socialist construction and the drive to realize modernization."
Artists with solid basic training before the "cultural revolution", rose to stardom with paintings that were labelled Rural Realist works.
In 1985, over 100 Chinese oil painters and art critics held a seminar near Huangshan Mountains in East China's Anhui Province. They called for artistic diversity and absorption of new ideas from the outside world, which caused a sensation among Chinese artists.
In the following years, the Chinese Oil Painters Society and the Oil Art Committee of the Chinese Artists Association were formed to organize exhibitions, seminars, training classes for novices, and to print publications about oil art in China.
In the early 1990s, China adopted a market economy and opened further to the outside world. New ideas, philosophies and information about vanguard art began flooding in, along with foreign investment.
All these prompted the rise of younger generations of oil artists whose experimental works in a wide range of styles were displayed across the nation, often causing widespread public discussions.
These works bore both ethnic and national flavours and Western influences, noted art critic Liu Xiaochun.
However, while most young artists were embracing new ideas and trends from the West, some Chinese artists made headway in depicting classic Chinese and ethnic subject matter.