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February 17–July 4, 2010


About the Artists and the Period
As China opened to the industrialized world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, diverse intellectual, cultural, and artistic influences flooded into China, while artistic communities began to question the vitality and future of the ink painting tradition.  Many Chinese painters studied abroad in Europe and Japan, and consequently fully embraced Western approaches, including the use of perspective, chiaroscuro, and alternative (non-traditional Chinese) media, such as oil painting.

A few outstanding artists, however, insisted upon developing ink painting by integrating the aesthetics of ancient scripts and seal engravings with fresh ideas, particularly represented by calligraphic brush modes.  In doing so, they successfully revitalized this tradition and created a novel and dynamic direction for the future of Chinese ink painting. 

The most influential of these figures, Wu Changshuo (1844-1927), Qi Baishi (1864-1957), Huang Binhong (1865-1955), and Pan Tianshou (1897-1971), are known in China as the “Four Great Masters.”  These masters faced the dual challenge of negotiating the impact of encounters with the West while inventing a livelier new direction for long-held practices of ink painting.  These painters were integrally linked through geographic connections and artistic traditions, each profoundly influencing later generations.  Together, these four masters contributed to rejuvenating the art of flower-and bird and landscape painting as well as calligraphy.

About the Exhibition
This exhibition is the first comprehensive show in the United States dedicated to the four masters, and will be shown exclusively at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University.  Xiaoneng Yang, the Patrick J.J. Maveety Curator of Asian Art at Stanford,  traveled to China to select the works.  The relevant institutions in China have also enthusiastically offered generous assistance in lending national treasures to this exhibition.  These include the Zhejiang Provincial Museum, the Pan Tianshou Memorial Museum at the China Academy of Fine Arts, and the Hangzhou History Museum.

The exhibition opens at the Cantor Arts Center on February 17, 2010 and runs through July 4, 2010.  Over one hundred works will be exhibited in two rotations to best protect these light-sensitive paintings.

Associated with the Exhibition
A fully illustrated catalogue with scholarly essays in English accompanies the exhibition.  There are two introductory essays, as well as essays on each artist.  Full catalogue entries, translated from Chinese, accompany the images.

An international symposium, with collaboration and contributions from the Departments of Music, East Asian Languages and Literature, Political Science, and Art and Art History, and  co-organized by Stanford’s Center for East Asian Studies, will be held the weekend of February 19-20 (schedule TBD).

Also in planning stages is a series of five concerts and a demonstration-lecture on Chinese calligraphy along with the Pan-Asian Music Festival.  Free public tours of the exhibition will be offered Thursdays at 12:15, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m., and for groups by appointment (650-723-3469).

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