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Exhibition highlighting Chinese watercolor paintings opens

An exhibition focusing on watercolor paintings opened last week at the National Art Museum of China. It offers a look at the art form’s 20th century history in China.

Up to 700 works from more than 300 artists make up the massive collection. On display as the main exhibits are watercolor works representing various periods in the 20th century, including works by noted artists Wu Guanzhong, Li Kuchan and Si Tuqiao.

The exhibition uses also documents and archives as supplements to the paintings’ history.

“Watercolor painting was first introduced to China in 1715, so this year actually marks its 300th anniversary in China. However, it was during the last century that it really matured in China. On display, you can see the works of well established artists along with some other lesser known artists,” says Fan Di’an, president of China Central Academy Of Fine Arts.

“Compared to the schools of painting like oil painting, the watercolor paintings are like a small piece to a grand symphony. But it’s by no means small. Actually it’s a perfect example of east meets west. The watercolor painting is quite similar to Chinese ink painting, in terms of the brushes and techniques used, so based on that, you can see how Chinese artists would use western techniques to present Chinese aesthetics,” said art critic Shao Dazhen.

The exhibition is divided into four parts, and the themes of the paintings vary greatly, from those depicting grand occasions to those that capture everyday life.

With more than a century of experimentation, the Chinese watercolor painting has flourished and gradually formed its own characteristics. And this exhibition offers a look into the painted history as well as the off-frame history.

“The 20th century is when China went through major changes, like the Sino-Japanese war, and the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It’s also the time when Chinese and Western cultures collided, a catalyst in shaping modern art in China. So you really get to see the bigger picture from the small frames,” Fan said.

The exhibition runs until February 8, then it will be moved to the Qingdao Art Museum in east China’s Shandong province, where a watercolor art museum will soon be inaugurated.