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Humanities LibreTexts

11.5: Shanghai School of Art (Late 19th Century)

  • Page ID
    31938
  • The 19th century Shanghai School of Art, located in the city of Shanghai, was similar to the Hudson School of Art. The institute produced prominent Chinese artists during the Qing Dynasty. The 1840 Taiping Rebellion triggered conflicts and ravaged cities, dispersing the artists who fled the cities. Most artists ended up in Shanghai, an open city with many European powers, and together the artists formed the Shanghai School of Art crafting a new culture influenced by the West, bringing innovative creativity and freedom in art. The artists wanted to purge the traditional and conservative for the trendy and ostentatious colorful art.

    Wu Changshuo (1844-1927) was one of the most prominent painters and calligraphers of the Qing Dynasty. Changshuo rejuvenated the painting of birds and flowers by drawing on his traditional education and combining it with the new flair of painting after the Shanghai School of Art, as reflected in his painting, Peonies, and Daffodil (11.18). He used bright colors and exaggerated the shape and form of the peonies, and the smaller daffodils form an abstract grouping, the counterpoint of the color red and green. Changshuo was considered a master of traditional ink painting and the invention of new methods and styles.

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    11.18 Peonies and Daffodil

    As art was taking an abrupt turn in China, Zhao Zhiqian (1829-1884) became one of the group leaders. He created an album of different plants entitled Flowers (11.19), depicting a bright and colorful display of red flowers and green leaves, in a nontraditional form. The bright, oversized flowers and leaves filled the page, lacking the usual standard technique. Zhiqian, also a calligrapher, included text on his paintings on the white background (11.20). The lack of details or depth gave the painters the freedom to explore and paint what they saw.

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    11.19 From the album Flowers
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    11.20 From the album Flowers

    Ren Bonian (1840-1896) moved to Shanghai after the death of his father and instantly became a member of the Shanghai School of Art. Bonian fused traditional style with the new, more modern western influence creating diverse scenes of people, nature, and wildlife. The Song Dynasty influenced his work when he first began painting; however, as he grew older, he favored the freer style of modernized art. Bonian is well known for his figure paintings along with his flower and birds in natural settings. Playing the Flute (11.21) displays the figure in a natural outdoor setting, sitting by the water with his flute. Traditionally, the people were minor compared to the natural scenery; however, the figure is proportional to the landscape.

    11.21 Playing the Flute