MEIZHAN TEKAN JIN GU [The National Fine Arts Exhibition Of 1929]
Shanghai, two volumes, 6 colour plates, 3 pasted in, with black and white plates throughout, 290 illustrations in all, woven silk brocade covers, in cloth slipcase
38 x 27cm.
This rare catalogue marks the first ever Chinese National Art Exhibition that was seven years in preparation at which 2258 pieces were exhibited of which 1231 were paintings. The present piece forms a unique document of the creation of Chinese art as a national category. Volume one covers contemporary art with sections on Chinese ink painting, oil paintings, foreign paintings, including oil paintings, the majority being studies of nudes, architecture, arts and crafts including ceramics and textiles and photography. Volume two is divided into Chinese paintings, ink rubbings and the works of artists of the late Qing Dynasty.
The two volumes point to the creative renaissance occurring in Chinese art in the 1920s. Whilst there is a clear veneration of tradition, with contemporary works in the tradition mode opening the first volume including work by Gu Linshi, Wu Hufan and Feng Chaoran, there are also pieces which are wildly new and controversial.
Oil nude studies are displayed prominently demonstrating an openness to engage with Western art subjects and painting techniques with works showcased by Liu Haisu, Pan Yuliang and Lin Fengmian, all of whom spent time studying in Europe. Elsewhere, the inclusion of works by Japanese artists showcase the close artistic relationship with Japan at this time. Photography is given status as an art form with 28 photographs reproduced by named artists.
The care and attention to detail in the production of the catalogue is notable. Three of the Classical Chinese paintings have been reproduced as coloured woodblock prints whilst other ink paintings from both volumes have been reproduced using photo gravure. The remainder of the works have been printed using the camera press technique. Each technique also uses a different type of paper pointing to the hierarchy of art forms at the time. This important artistic and historical document provides a unique insight into a key moment in the development of Modern Chinese Art.