FROM PALACE TO STUDIO CHINESE WOMAN ARTISTS 1900-PRESENT AND BENGAL MODERNITY EARLY 20TH CENTURY ART IN INDIA -TWO EXHIBITIONS AT THE ASHMOLEAN MUSEUM BEAUMONT STREET OXFORD-REVIEWER LAURENCE HUMPHRIES

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This Exhibition from Palace to Studio shows some of the art produced by Women artists in the 20th Century. “Women talented in Art were usually mentioned as someone’s daughter, wife concubine Lover and their art as a Pastime”. [1].  Much of the art  displayed in the Ashmolean shows how women artists were experienced in the use of pen and ink. Their knowledge of calligraphy was great and most of their work shows ink and colour on Paper. Some of the artists mentioned like Pat-Hui-Suet and MA Jing were very proficient and their art displays different types of themes .

they have entitled the work ‘In a retreat among bamboos’ and ‘My World of ceramic art’.

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Landscape pictures of flowers trees and other pictorial items are drawn very carefully by artists like Xia Shufang 1911-2005, ‘Mountain flowers in full bloom’ , Zhou Sicong 1939-1996 ‘a boy and a girl under trees’. “The first generation of artists trained in the Peoples Republic of China and trained in the central academy of Fine Arts”. [2]. Other examples of art is shown by Chang Chen -Ying 1904-2003  with her ‘Poppy’ “The daughter of a customs official Chang-Chien Ying was among the first generation of Chinese Women who had the chance to receive formal training in Art”. [3].

Artists like Iren Chou Luyan 1924-2011 developed abstraction and wished to ignore figurative work, Traditional subjects were ignored and abstraction developed.

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Mia Jiahui 1891-1908 lived during the period of the GuangXu Emperor (1875-1908). “The Empress Dowager Cixi ruled China effectively for nearly 50 years . She was looking for Woman painters to be her Teacher, Mia Jiahui was selected and sent to Bejing”. [4].

I am now going to show you some Modern art in China. there were paintings by the Yi Dynasty an ethnic minority in China. The Return of the Graduate painted by LiXiu in 1977 shows that this art is very reminiscent of Socialist realism , art influenced by STALINISM , a counter revolutionary form of Art forced onto artists by Stalin who abhorred abstraction and Modern art and preferred to see Figurative art. Many artists perished both in China under the ‘Cultural Revolution’ an inner Party struggle led by Maotsetung to establish his control of the Party, there was never any Revolutionary aspect of this inner Party  struggle.

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“This print has exercised both political and social influence . The smiling faces show traces of the style usually see in the Cultural Revolution”. [4].

Bengal Modernity shows the early 20 century art in India. This Exhibition is really worth seeing as it shows the development of Indian art leading to the clamour of Independence and freedom from their British Colonial masters. “In the early 20 th Century Nationalist fervour swept the Indian Sub Continent. in Bengal several artists focused on revitalising cultural History and Spirituality”. [5].

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Much f Rabindranath Tagore’s work I have written before , there were several other Bengali artists who showed abstraction pictures using wavy and diagonal lines .The artists who were active and prominent in this role  were Ishwan Prasad 1(1870-1950) , Nandalal Bose (1882-1966), Benode Behai Mukherjee (1904-1980) and Jainini Roy (1887-1972).

I recommend that if that you visit both these Exhibitions at   the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Beaumont street is very easy to find next to the Gloucester Green Bus Station.

Both Exhibitions can be found in galleries 11 and 29.

Footnotes

1)  Gallery 11 Ashmolean Museum Oxford

2)    Ditto

3)   Ditto

4)  Ditto

5)  Gallery 29  Ashmolean Museum Oxford

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