Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

11.3: Modern Art Painting (1900-1999)

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    ( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorA}[1]{\vec{#1}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorAt}[1]{\vec{\text{#1}}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorB}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorC}[1]{\textbf{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorD}[1]{\overrightarrow{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorDt}[1]{\overrightarrow{\text{#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectE}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash{\mathbf {#1}}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    \(\newcommand{\avec}{\mathbf a}\) \(\newcommand{\bvec}{\mathbf b}\) \(\newcommand{\cvec}{\mathbf c}\) \(\newcommand{\dvec}{\mathbf d}\) \(\newcommand{\dtil}{\widetilde{\mathbf d}}\) \(\newcommand{\evec}{\mathbf e}\) \(\newcommand{\fvec}{\mathbf f}\) \(\newcommand{\nvec}{\mathbf n}\) \(\newcommand{\pvec}{\mathbf p}\) \(\newcommand{\qvec}{\mathbf q}\) \(\newcommand{\svec}{\mathbf s}\) \(\newcommand{\tvec}{\mathbf t}\) \(\newcommand{\uvec}{\mathbf u}\) \(\newcommand{\vvec}{\mathbf v}\) \(\newcommand{\wvec}{\mathbf w}\) \(\newcommand{\xvec}{\mathbf x}\) \(\newcommand{\yvec}{\mathbf y}\) \(\newcommand{\zvec}{\mathbf z}\) \(\newcommand{\rvec}{\mathbf r}\) \(\newcommand{\mvec}{\mathbf m}\) \(\newcommand{\zerovec}{\mathbf 0}\) \(\newcommand{\onevec}{\mathbf 1}\) \(\newcommand{\real}{\mathbb R}\) \(\newcommand{\twovec}[2]{\left[\begin{array}{r}#1 \\ #2 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\ctwovec}[2]{\left[\begin{array}{c}#1 \\ #2 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\threevec}[3]{\left[\begin{array}{r}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\cthreevec}[3]{\left[\begin{array}{c}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\fourvec}[4]{\left[\begin{array}{r}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \\ #4 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\cfourvec}[4]{\left[\begin{array}{c}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \\ #4 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\fivevec}[5]{\left[\begin{array}{r}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \\ #4 \\ #5 \\ \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\cfivevec}[5]{\left[\begin{array}{c}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \\ #4 \\ #5 \\ \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\mattwo}[4]{\left[\begin{array}{rr}#1 \amp #2 \\ #3 \amp #4 \\ \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\laspan}[1]{\text{Span}\{#1\}}\) \(\newcommand{\bcal}{\cal B}\) \(\newcommand{\ccal}{\cal C}\) \(\newcommand{\scal}{\cal S}\) \(\newcommand{\wcal}{\cal W}\) \(\newcommand{\ecal}{\cal E}\) \(\newcommand{\coords}[2]{\left\{#1\right\}_{#2}}\) \(\newcommand{\gray}[1]{\color{gray}{#1}}\) \(\newcommand{\lgray}[1]{\color{lightgray}{#1}}\) \(\newcommand{\rank}{\operatorname{rank}}\) \(\newcommand{\row}{\text{Row}}\) \(\newcommand{\col}{\text{Col}}\) \(\renewcommand{\row}{\text{Row}}\) \(\newcommand{\nul}{\text{Nul}}\) \(\newcommand{\var}{\text{Var}}\) \(\newcommand{\corr}{\text{corr}}\) \(\newcommand{\len}[1]{\left|#1\right|}\) \(\newcommand{\bbar}{\overline{\bvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\bhat}{\widehat{\bvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\bperp}{\bvec^\perp}\) \(\newcommand{\xhat}{\widehat{\xvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\vhat}{\widehat{\vvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\uhat}{\widehat{\uvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\what}{\widehat{\wvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\Sighat}{\widehat{\Sigma}}\) \(\newcommand{\lt}{<}\) \(\newcommand{\gt}{>}\) \(\newcommand{\amp}{&}\) \(\definecolor{fillinmathshade}{gray}{0.9}\)


    In the twentieth century, they started a resistance against the traditional art methods in Asian countries. The wars and rebellions brought large numbers of Western people into the region along with different ideas. Asian artists began experimenting with new concepts, rejecting the typical art standards. With the advent of Western capitalism, a culture of mass media and consumption grew. Artists began to use art as a method of communicating social change. Throughout Korea and Southeast Asia, artists have used prints, banners, posters, and paintings on different materials as part of social change. "The function of art in a social context has been broadened in various ways such as the concept of collectivism in artist groups or the creation of feminist art across Asian countries."[1]

    The beginning decades of the twentieth century in China started the end of the Qing empire and the influx of Western concepts into China. The Republic of China was founded to bring China's diverse regions into a single country. Artists were also forced to take sides, be conservative, and maintain China's traditional artistic values and methods or be innovators and adopt foreign ideas and techniques. In 1949, after World War II, the People's Republic of China controlled the country and mandated artists to follow "revolutionary realism" to celebrate the country and everyday people. Artists began painting from life instead of following ancient methods. The new freedoms only lasted until 1966 with the Great Cultural Revolution and the persecution of many artists. In 1978, after the death of Chairman Mao, the government started reforms and opened the country to investment by the West. The new reforms also brought opportunities for artists. Artists in this section include:

    • Zeng Fanzhi (1964-)
    • Pacita Barsana Abad (1946 – 2004) 
    • Luo Zhongli (1948-) 
    • Bui Xuan Phai (1920-1988)
    • Chiura Obata (1885-1975)
    • Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010)
    • Le Thi Luu (1911-1988)
    • Amrita Sher-Gil (1913-1941)
    • Nasreen Mohamedi (1937-1990)
    • Nyoman Masriadi (1973-)
    • Georgette Chen (1906-1993)
    • Zao Wou-ki (1921-2013)
    • Tyeb Mehta (1925-2009)

    Zeng Fanzhi 

    Zeng Fanzhi (1964-) was born in China during the Cultural Revolution. After dropping out of high school, he attended the Hubei Academy of Fine Arts. Zeng is one of China's most famous artists. He spent time in school studying the Expressionists, especially the German Expressionists. He developed his style based on unconventional standards and emotional, expressive images. Originally, Zeng was trained to paint portraits and other themes about the countryside. He became an expert in the human figure and facial expressions training, which developed his desire for figurative paintings. At the same time, he was supposed to portray the concepts of Socialist Realism and painted as required in a class, working on his emotional figurative work on his own. 

    Zeng lived near a hospital, and when he walked by the hospital, he noticed the different problems afflicting people. Some of the events he noticed involved the suffering people encountered, and sometimes, Zeng found the indifference and hypocrisy of doctors and others toward the patients. His series depicted the consideration for the individual's health versus the state's requirements. In the painting Hospital Series (11.3.1), the man in the green jacket looks at the weeping person on the chair. In the background are the waiting patients, emotionlessly waiting for treatment. The pain and anguish in the room are apparent, primarily through Zeng's use of color. Through expressive brushstrokes, the use of red (the color of blood) and gray brings an immediate sense of depression and sadness to the room. Each person resides in their foggy mind; no one interacts or seems to care about another person. The viewer's eye is constantly returned to the man in the green jacket, reducing the viewer's interest in anyone else.  

    two men on a couch with other people behind
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Hospital Series (1994, oil on canvas, 179.1 x 199.4 cm) (mr.pushCC BY-NC 2.0)

    Tiananmen (11.3.2) is an image of Tiananmen Square in the background overlaid by a portrait of Mao Zedong, one of the most famous leaders of the Chinese government. The conflicting image relates China's relationship with the recent history of 1989. The bright colors of the square demonstrate the optimism for a better future and the heroism of people to change the course of history. As thousands of people stood in the square to support democracy and freedom, the tanks and guns of the military killed thousands. Zeng used a network of brush strokes to depict Moa, who dominates the scene, the lingering rule of a ghost from the past repressing the people. 

    a mans face on top of a red building
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Tiananmen (2004, oil on canvas, 215 x 330 cm) (mr.pushCC BY-NC 2.0)

    Pacita Barsana Abad

    Pacita Barsana Abad (1946 – 2004) was born on an island in the Philippines. Both of her parents were politically active and served in their congressional government. Originally, Abad earned her degree from the University of the Philippines, where she majored in political science and planned to become a politician like her parents. While Abad was in graduate school, she protested against the Marcos government. When Abad's home was targeted and sprayed with bullets, she decided to go to Spain and finish her law degree. However, when Abad stopped to visit relatives in San Francisco, Abad stayed and completed her master's degree. While Abad was in San Francisco, she had a short marriage to a painter and became interested in the local art scene. Abad married her second husband, and they moved to Washington D. C. and New York, where she studied painting.

    Abad traveled continuously and established a studio space to work wherever she lived. Her artwork, paintings, and canvases filled the rooms. Abad also painted the walls in bright colors, covered the floors with multicolored textiles, and crammed every space with sculptures or flowers. Many people described Abad's home as sensory overload. Her work was vibrant and full of abstractions. Abad based much of her work on political themes, masks, flowers, or wildlife. She used multiple materials, including canvas, paper, or bark cloth for the background and metals, glass, yarn, fabrics, or ceramics for the collages. Abad used a style of trapunto painting as she stitched materials onto the canvas and stuffed sections to produce a three-dimensional effect. Abad's trapunto style of painting was illustrated with color and continual experimentation. Wherever Abad went, she collected local materials to use in her work. 

    African Mephisto (11.3.3) was one of many images Abad created based on her travels in 1979 through parts of Africa. Abad portrayed images founded in local African mythology and folklore. She used her trapunto painting technique with multiple layers of different materials. The base of the canvas had pieces of cloth stitched on with stuffing inserted under the pieces to create depth. Abad used paint to add patterns and bits of rick rack and ribbons. Inside the Saulog Bus (11.3.4) was one of the first artworks Abad completed when she returned to the Philippines. Throughout her travels in other countries, she painted images based on social realism and wanted to create paintings of realism in Philippine life. Abad painted multiple portrayals of ordinary people or immigrants and how they survived in the world around them. The people on the bus sit stoically, accepting the crowded seating and waiting for the journey to end, with little interaction between them—people in economic positions with little money for roomy seats on a bus or private cars. Abad started the series in 1981, and after she moved from the Philippines in 1986, she never painted social realism again. The rest of her paintings concentrated on mixed media trapunto techniques. 

    person with white face and multi striped dress
    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): African Mephisto (acrylic, rick rack ribbons, tie-dyed cloth, painted cloth, stitched, 1981, 269 x 180 cm) (wl.glazewskiPublic Domain 1.0.)
    a woman breastfeeding with a man and other children
    Figure \(\PageIndex{4}\): Inside the Saulog Bus (oil on canvas, 1981, 84 x 89 cm) (wl.glazewskiPublic Domain Mark 1.0)

    Unfortunately, Abad had cancer and was receiving daily radiotherapy to treat cancer in 2004. Nevertheless, she worked on and completed painting the 55-meter-long pedestrian bridge (11.3.5) over the Singapore River in seven weeks. Abad used 55 unique colors and painted over 2,300 circles. Abad was excited to bring artwork to the public for all to see. She stated, "My hope is that when people look at the fifty-five colors and playful circle designs adorning the Bridge, they will smile and enjoy experiencing art as a part of their daily life. The 'Painted Bridge' is my gift to the people of Singapore!"[2] Sadly, Abad died of cancer later in 2004.

    bridge painted in bold colors with circles
    Figure \(\PageIndex{5}\): Artbridge (carlomag2002CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
    Pacita Barsana Abad

    Credits to all the rightful owners for the pictures/information/media used, this video is made for Academic Purposes only specifically for the subject "Contemporary Philippine Arts from the Regions".


    Luo Zhongli 

    Luo Zhongli (1948-) was born in Chongqing, China. He has a degree in art from the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute and an MFA from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Belgium, and he was a professor at the Sichuan Institute. Luo Zhongli's early years were during China's Cultural Revolution. As part of the education process for the people, posters extolling the virtues of happy peasants were the primary art forms. The art did not reflect the terrible reality of poverty and famine under the Mao regime. Realistic art started to develop when the revolution ended, and Luo Zhongli became one of China's most famous realistic artists. He began painting portraits of people in rural regions. 

    His portrait of Father (11.3.6) introduced the concept of capturing a person's actual life and feelings. The man is simply posed, facing the viewer. His face is covered with wrinkles, reflecting the hardship of his life. The man's hands are creased and dirty, a bandage wrapped around one finger. His hands hold a bowl of tea, the bowl old and worn like the man who owns it. The painting was huge, a scale usually seen in portraits of politicians, emperors, or the elite. Oddly, a ballpoint pen is sitting on the left ear. However, governmental officials in China worried about the image, so the government sponsored the first showing of the Father painting. The official in charge insisted Luo Zhongli add the pen to represent an educated peasant in modern China. Today, Luo Zhongli remains one of China's most popular artists. 

    a man drinking from a bowl of soup
    Figure \(\PageIndex{6}\): Father (oil on canvas, 1980. 215 x 150 cm) (National Art Museum, Beijing, China)
    The Art of Luo Zhongli

    SolitArtGallery presents The Art of Luo Zhongli Chongqing, China


    Bui Xuan Phai

    Bui Xuan Phai (1920-1988) was born in Kim Hoang village, Vietnam, during French control of the French Indochina region. Phai's father was educated in French colonial schools and wanted his children to receive a good education. However, Phai wished to become a painter. He was able to attend the Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts d’Indochine. Unfortunately, the school closed due to the Japanese invasion during World War II. He sold his first painting when he was twenty and had an exhibition. The French came back and occupied the country again after the war. Phai taught while working with the North Vietnam resistance movement against the French from 1947 to 1952 and was even a member of the Vietnam Fine Arts Association. However, in 1957, when Phai supported a movement for political and cultural freedom, he lost his job and was not allowed to show his work until 1984. 

    Because Phai was not economically successful early in his life, he painted on multiple surfaces he could find, including canvas, boards, paper, and anything else flat. Much of his work was based on the city of Hanoi and the buildings he encountered. Phai's work had bold outlines and thick brushstrokes using watercolor, oils, pastels, or pencils. Phai is known for his work depicting the ancient streets of old Hanoi. The paintings have bold borders, and the streets are a focal point in the images, as seen in (11.3.7, 11.3.8, 11.3.9). Some of the streets are well-defined, and others are just shapes. Although the buildings are grouped, each is unique, having its shape, doorways, and roofs.

    The muted color palettes depict a feeling of sadness in each painting, a nostalgia or yearning for what is lost. The old part of Hanoi is mostly destroyed today as buildings were demolished to accommodate new developments. Each street had different memories for Phai, and he wrote a book about each street he painted. Resistance depicted the local neighborhood where street fighting took place. On Hang Mam Street, the merchants traded in fish sauce and agricultural products. Others made terra cotta ware. The old Hanoi included thirty-six little streets, all providing unique work and living spaces for people. 

    houses against a dark sky
    Figure \(\PageIndex{7}\): Resistance in Hanoi (1966, oil on unknown, size unknown) (Musée Annampublic domain)
    several row houses painted white and brown
    Figure \(\PageIndex{8}\): Hang Mam Street (1964, oil on canvas, 60 x 80 cm) (Tasmanian.KrisCC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
    a city street with houses and a man walking on the street
    Figure \(\PageIndex{9}\): Ruelle A Hanoi (date unknown, oil on board, 48 x 58 cm) (manhhaiCC BY-NC 2.0)
    Danh Hoa Lung Dan

    Ông chuyên về chất liệu sơn dầu, đam mê mảng đề tài phố cổ Hà Nội. Ngay từ lúc sinh thời, sáng tạo của ông đã được quần chúng mến mộ gọi dòng tranh này là Phố Phái. Tranh phố của Bùi Xuân Phái vừa cổ kính lại rất hiện thực, thể hiện rõ hồn cốt của phố cổ Hà Nội những thập niên 50, 60 hay 70. Các mảng màu trong tranh Phái thường có đường viền đậm nét, từ bề mặt đến cảnh quan đều có chiều sâu bên trong. Ngắm tranh phố cổ của Phái, người xem nhận thấy họa sĩ đã gửi gắm những kỉ niệm, những hoài cảm cùng nỗi buồn man mác, tiếc nuối bâng khuâng trên từng nét vẽ, như điềm báo về sự đổi thay và biến mất của từng mái nhà, từng con người mang hồn phách xưa cũ.

    He specializes in oil painting materials, is passionate about the theme of Hanoi Old Quarter. Right from the time of his birth, his creation has been affectionately called this line of paintings by the masses. Bui Xuan Phong's street paintings are both ancient and very realistic, clearly showing the soul of Hanoi Old Quarter in the 50s, 60s or 70s. The color patches in Sect paintings often have bold borders, from the surface to the landscape there is depth inside. Looking at the paintings of the old town of Phai, viewers noticed that the artist sent memories, nostalgia and sadness and regret on each stroke, as a harbinger of the change and disappearance of each roof, each person with the old soul.


    Chiura Obata

    Chiura Obata (1885-1975) was born in Japan, the youngest of many children. By age five, he had demonstrated the ability to draw and started formal training in sumi-e (Japanese ink and brush painting) at seven. At fourteen, he left home to avoid military school and apprenticed to a master painter. He was trained in both Japanese and Western art styles. In 1903, Obata went to the United States, first to Seattle and then to San Francisco. Obata was in San Francisco for the big earthquake and made on-site drawings of the destruction. He went to Japan after his father's death and produced colored woodblock prints of his series, World Landscape Series. The images were primarily based in Yosemite and the Sierras. His success led to a position at the University of California, Berkeley as an instructor. During World War II, along with other Japanese, he was sent to Tanforan and Topaz Relocation Centers. With other artists, they established art schools and taught twenty-five different subjects. After the war ended, he returned to UC Berkeley as an instructor. 

    Obata became one of California's most significant Japanese American cultural leaders. He integrated Western techniques with his broad base of Japanese methods and created new styles. One of Obata's major subjects was the Sierra Nevada mountains and Yosemite Park. He made almost one hundred drawings of the region using pencil, watercolor, and sumi ink. He said his visits to Yosemite were "the greatest harvest for my whole life and future in painting."[3] El Capitan (11.3.10) was one of the images from his series. Obata used thirty-two carvers and forty printers to create the woodblocks. It took multiple blocks and 100 to 160 impressions to make each image and create the watercolor effect.[4]

    Lake Basin in the High Sierra (11.3.11) was a print from one of his most famous works. Obata wrote about this view, "For just two months in the year the nameless lake nestling at the foot of Johnson Peak in the High Sierra comes to life from its winter slumber. Rocks and five-needle pines along the shore cling to each other tightly. Countless streams run down the frozen mountainside, lending a sublime melody. Man's soul and body seem to melt away into the singular silence and tranquility of the surrounding air."[5] Although the colors in this image are dark, the actual print is quite bright, with multiple shades and tones of blues and greens forming the water. 

    a large orange cliff with a trail leading up to it
    Figure \(\PageIndex{10}\): El Capitan (color woodcut on paper, 1931, 39.8 x 28.0 cm) (rocorCC BY-NC 2.0)
    lake with large mountains surrounding it
    Figure \(\PageIndex{11}\): Lake Basin in the High Sierra (ink and color on silk mounted on paper, ca.1930, 176.5 x 260.4 cm) (Tom HiltonCC BY 2.0)

    In the early 1900s, Obata worked in the Sacramento Valley hops fields. In the expansive and flat valley, he saw the vastness of the sky and the extreme contrast with the land. Setting Sun of Sacramento Valley (11.3.12) is Obata's painting of the dramatic sky at dusk. The clouds form fingers as the vivid sun's rays reflect off the clouds. The vast, flat, dark valley presents an abrupt change between the land and the sky. The painting demonstrates Obata's ability to portray the power of nature. Critic Jerome Tarshis stated, "No matter where he was, he subordinated the topography of the Far West and the American ideal of expansiveness to conventions rooted in animism and Buddhism. Consciously bridging two cultures, he depicted stylized…landscapes that bear comparison with the finest painting done in America between the wars."[6]   

    ocean with red, yellow, white, and blue clouds
    Figure \(\PageIndex{12}\): Setting Sun of Sacramento Valley (Hanging scroll: ink and color on silk, 1922, image: 205.4 x 144.1 cm) (rocorCC BY-NC 2.0)
    American Modern

    Chiura Obata ranks among the most significant California-based artists and Japanese American cultural leaders of the last century. Born in Okayama, Japan, Obata immigrated to San Francisco as a teenager in 1903. By then, he was integrating Western practices into his art-making, and continued experimenting with new styles and methods throughout his seven-decade career. As a professor at University of California, Berkeley, and a founder of the East West Art Society, a Bay Area artists’ collective, he facilitated cross-cultural dialogue, despite widespread prejudice against Asian Americans. In 1942, when World War II fears and Executive Order 9066 forced Obata and more than one hundred thousand West Coast Japanese Americans into incarceration camps scattered across the western United States, he created art schools in the camps to help fellow prisoners cope with their displacement and loss. After the war, Obata returned to his callings as a painter, teacher, and cultural ambassador with scars that brought new emotional force to his work.


    Wu Guanzhong

    Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010) is considered one of the most important Chinese artists of the twentieth century. He was born in a small village in Jiangsu province and was expected to follow in his family's footsteps as a teacher. He studied engineering at Zhejiang University and became friends with an art student who showed Wu the school's art academy. Wu loved art, but he transferred to the art program contrary to his father's wishes. During the conflicts with Japan and World War II, completing his degree was challenging; however, he graduated and found a job teaching watercolor. After the war, Wu went to Paris to study and encountered different art styles that conflicted with his Chinese style. Wu learned the ideas of formalism and the importance of line, color, shape, or texture instead of work based on historical or social meanings. 

    When he returned to China in 1950, Wu taught art at different colleges, bringing new ideas counter to social realism that others followed. During Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution, Wu was sent to a brutal labor camp for the 're-education' program. Later, he talked about life as only planting rice or fighting with each other in the camps. Wu knew artists were being killed, and he destroyed many of his paintings. After Mao died in 1976 and the end of the Cultural Revolution, artists could return to making art. However, a broad gap developed between the previously forced abandonment of art and artistic changes in the rest of the world. Wu became an advocate for the use of formalism. He wanted oil painting and Chinese painting to become modernized. Wu's work demonstrated that Chinese culture can be reborn and there is life and death, hope and loss; however, history can be recovered, reframed, and reimagined.  

    After the Cultural Revolution, Wu was free to paint again after the Cultural Revolution and experiment with Chinese techniques and formalism. He experimented with ink and, by the 1980s, began to paint images of different villages in Southern China. Wu blended ink and oil into a more unrestrained form image. He found a more diverse landscape in south China than in the north. The rain became a mild drizzle, waterways flowed between buildings, and the plentiful willow trees had delicate pale green leaves. Wu used a palette of black, white, and gray. As in the image Hometown of Lu Xun (11.3.13) and his other paintings of the series, Wu used the buildings' white walls and black tiles as the central focus. Waterways and skies became combinations of grays. The wispy green leaves of the willow trees accent their tall, thin branches. Wu integrated traditional Chinese imagery by inserting the small, fragile human figures clad in red clothing. He used geometric blocks to form the village, emphasizing the importance of line, shape, and free brush strokes. Wu believed oil paint and ink were critical to modernizing Chinese painting. Wu said, "The fundamental elements of formal beauty comprise form, color, and rhythm. I used eastern rhythms in the absorption of western form and color…"[7]

    white houses with brown roofs
    Figure \(\PageIndex{13}\): Hometown of Lu Xun (collotype print on canvas, 1985, 61 x 73 cm) (CeaCC BY 2.0)

    The ancient town of Jiaohe had a glorious past as part of a garrison town located on the Silk Road. The city was built at the confluence of different rivers. Constructed on the hillside in 640 CE, the town was eventually annexed as part of China. The city's location in the high, dry plateau region aided in preserving the old buildings. In An Old Town of the Jiaohe (11.3.14), Wu used different brush strokes and pen marks to bring life to the old decayed and crumbling ruins. He forces the viewer to move around the image as though wandering through the ancient ruins with few defined entrances or definitions in the classical Chinese landscape. Only at the top of the painting does Wu leave space for the sky and define the up and down. One historian wrote about Wu's use of color and stated they were "brilliantly rendered in nuanced, earthy-tone gouache washes of beiges, peaches, and ambers, with the occasional, surprising burst of scarlet. Erratic, seemingly accidental splashes and ink dots emphasize the instability and ineluctable erosion of the mud brick ruins…"[8] The painting captured the transient nature of time, an image depicting layers of history.

    city scape on white background with black lines
    Figure \(\PageIndex{14}\): An Old Town of the Jiaohe (ink and color on paper, 1981, 106 x 102 cm) (MD SMARKACC BY-SA 4.0)
    Dots. Lines. Cubes.

    Hong Kong Museum of Art "Of all the arts, music is held in the highest regard," Wu Guanzhong once said. Central to the exhibition is the tempo, rhythm and interplay between void and solidity using dots, lines and planes. The celebrated trilogy (namely Two Swallows, Former Residence of Qiu Jin and Reminiscence of Jiangnan), Wind from the Sea, Leaving Youth Behind, and The Easterly Breeze Blows Open the wisteria will be displayed.


    Le Thi Luu

    Le Thi Luu (1911-1988) was born in Tho Khoi, North Vietnam, and she wanted to become a painter when she was a young teen. Her father was a government official, and the family traveled with him to different places. He made his daughters follow Vietnamese customs, wear black trousers, have long hair, and lacquer their teeth. Most young girls had few options at the time and were expected to marry and be good wives and mothers. However, when Le Thi Luu was sixteen, she had different ideas and took the exam for advanced study, and the first female artist to attend the Indochina College of Fine Arts. Her first exhibition was successful, and she became a sensation because women were not usually trained to be artists. During this period of Le Thi Luu's life, Vietnam was under French control, and the country was called French Indochina. It was common for Vietnamese artists to go to France for further study. She and her husband (they married in 1934) went to France in 1940, right before the German invasion of World War II. Le Thi Luu and her husband tried to return to Vietnam but were blocked, so they stayed in Africa during the war and returned to France afterward. 

    In France, she was influenced by the style of the Impressionists and other movements, and she applied these concepts to her Vietnamese style and background. Le Thi Luu specialized in ink and color on silk and became known for her combinations of color, light, and softness in her chromatic palette. Most of her paintings were based on Vietnamese women and children; she painted with romantic realism. Many believe Le Thi Luu is the best female Vietnamese artist of the twentieth century.  

    Le Thi Luu's grace is seen in the painting, demonstrating the love of a mother and son in her painting Hai mẹ con (Mother and Child) (11.3.15). Her work reflects her softness and delicacy in the use of cheerful colors. She used a mix of colors to create unique pastels to depict the softness and gentleness of her work. The palette of colors are soft and blend into each other. She did paint the child's shirt with a brighter orange to bring the child to the center as the focal point. The figures are surrounded by flowers, similar to how the Impressionist painters used flowers in their work. 

    mother and baby snuggling on a chair
    Figure \(\PageIndex{15}\): Hai mẹ con (Mother and Child) (ca. 1960s, ink, color, silk, 35.8 x 27.5 cm) (manhhaiCC BY 2.0)

    Jeune Fille Dans Le Jardin (11.3.16) is an example of how Le Thi Luu mastered using soft lines and delicacy. Her beautiful pastel colors are found in the multiple flowers that surround the young girl. The distant trees and sky create a background with the trees breaking the solid color of the blue sky; the sky shines through and then repeats in the leaves near the bottom of the painting. Le Thi Luu created her images mostly from her imagination, with oval faces and soft, vulnerable eyes reflecting melancholy at times. The lighting in the painting is soft without deep shadows, which is characteristic of Le Thi Luu. 

    woman outside in white dress smelling roses
    Figure \(\PageIndex{16}\): Jeune Fille Dans Le Jardin (Young Girl in a Garden) (1970, ink and gouache on silk, 38 x 29.5 cm) (manhhaiCC BY 2.0)

    Amrita Sher-Gil 

    Amrita Sher-Gil (1913-1941) was born in Hungary before returning to India at an early age. Her father was an aristocrat who married a Hungarian-Jewish opera singer. Sher-Gil started drawing when she was young and used the house servants as models in her paintings. At eight, she began formal painting lessons. When she was sixteen, Sher-Gil went with her mother to Paris to study art, influenced by Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin and the Post-impressionist style. At age twenty, she was elected into the Grand Salon in Paris, the youngest member and the only Asian. As Sher-Gil continued to work in Paris, she made multiple self-portraits, studied nude painting, and used her friends as models. Sher-Gil returned to India, traveled throughout South India, and transformed her work to depict the people of India and their way of life. In the 1930s, when Sher-Gil returned to India, she was already famous. In India, art followed the Bengal School, a form established by a British art historian. Many believed the work to be weak, poorly executed, and watered down. Sher-Gil said of the school and its influence it was, "far from fulfilling its vast ambition, this school is responsible for the stagnation that characterizes Indian painting today. The tenets of the Bengal School seem to have a cramping and crippling effect on the creative spirit."[9]

    Sher-Gil became known for her blend of European and Indian ideals based on vigorous brushwork and use of color. When she saw the caves of Ajanta and Ellora, she was moved by the visual images and the lives of the people around her. She developed an intense color palette based on deep reds, browns, yellows, greens, and oranges. Sher-Gil studied the faces of the people, long toiling under arbitrary rulers. She captured their pensive and melancholy looks and introduced a new concept of modern Indian women. Sher-Gill depicted domestic scenes of women and their daily lives.  

    In her painting, Resting (11.3.17), Sher-Gil portrayed a group of women from the local village taking a break from their chores. Except for the young girl on one side, the women are ageless, each contemplating something different as they look downward, not bothering to talk to each other. Sher-Gil captures the unique skin color of each woman and demonstrates the singular variety found in every person. In the Village Scene (11.3.18), each person is engaged in a different activity. Sher-Gil used red as focal points, demanding the viewer to look. The image also presents a subtle puzzle with no dominant construct appearing. Are the women getting ready in the morning, just awakening to face the day? Or is it at the end of the day, and the day's fatigue has set in? The children have been included in the picture, seemingly waiting for the next event of the day. Sher-Gil added the basket of red peppers spilled on the ground. Why is that the only object in the room? Sher-Gil was a master at presenting an image that could be interpreted in multiple ways. 

    five women picking picking flowers
    Figure \(\PageIndex{17}\): Resting (oil on canvas, 1939, 75 x 100 cm) (nathanh100CC BY 2.0)
    several seated women talking and picking peppers
    Figure \(\PageIndex{18}\): Village Scene (1938) (public domain)
    Vivan Sundaram on Amrita Sher-Gil

    An exhibition at Tate Modern looked at the paintings of Amrita Sher-Gil (1913-1941), who's been called India's Frida Kahlo. Sher-Gil was just 28 when she died but was already recognised as one of India's most important artists. In this film Sher-Gil's nephew Vivan Sundaram, an artist in his own right, talks about her legacy.


    Nasreen Mohamedi

    Nasreen Mohamedi (1937-1990) was born in Karachi, India, now part of Pakistan. Her father was a wealthy businessman, and the family was considered part of a privileged family. Mohamedi studied art in London and Paris before she returned to India and joined the Bhulabhai Desai Institute for the Arts. By 1972, she was a successful artist and taught art at Maharaja Sayajirao University until her death. Mohamidi traveled to different parts of the world and was influenced by Zen concepts, the forms of Islamic architecture, and nature's environments. She was also exposed to many Western art movements; however, her work was mainly based on Buddhist ideals, and her work was based on the concepts of the use of positive and negative spaces. Patterns and intersecting lines are seen in much of Mohamedi's art. She created abstract art based on non-Western ideals. Her work was not well-known outside of India during her lifetime. Today, Mohamedi is considered one of India's most important modern artists. She expanded the descriptions of international modernism.

    Mohamedi's artistic preference was to use a pencil and paper for drawing her lines. Her style was minimalistic, characterized by organic shapes with hard-edged lines. She masterfully employed primary forms to create intricate images while retaining a simplistic look. Discipline of Line I (11.3.19) is a set of straight lines, each supporting the others. Some lines are thin and delicate, while others are deep and dark, with hard edges forcing the viewer to move from space to space. Each section moves from the more prominent dark figure to narrower yet smaller dark lines, finally supported by the fine lines. The New York Times wrote, "Her fine-drawn linear planes floating in space or shattering into cascades, feel both timeless and futuristic, calligraphic and architectural."[10]

    black lines on a white background
    Figure \(\PageIndex{19}\): Discipline of Line I (pencil, paper) (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
    Interactive Element: Nasreen Mohamedi

    We present a video from Nasreen Mohamedi’s extraordinary exhibition at KNMA in 2013's archive from the museum. In the history of Indian Modernism, Nasreen Mohamedi is a distinct figure. This retrospective exhibition draws connections between Nasreen’s works from the early 1960s to the 80s, highlighting her singular vision that runs through her early paintings, collages, photographs, diaries, and drawings.

    Nyoman Masriadi

    Nyoman Masriadi (1973-) was born in Bali. He moved to Indonesia and was trained at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts. Although he was from Bali, he did not use the Bali traditions of painting, which were either sacred or for Western audiences. Instead, he wanted to base his work on modern social life and the traits people possessed. Masriadi uses superhuman, bold, and muscular images to create his different commentaries on life. He continually read comics as a child and tends to base his characters on those ideas. Many of Masriadi's figures are set in a confrontative position or mood. One of his paintings depicted a soldier holding a broom instead of a gun, a rather unlikely element. However, Masriadi incorporated the broom based on an Indonesian belief that a broom can stand for total destruction. 

    Old Master (x.x) is based on the concepts of a Japanese samurai warrior woven with a modern approach based on Masriadi's heritage. The figure displays an intense emotion and enough power to do significant damage with only a sword. The warrior appears balanced while leaving the viewer to wonder how the figure could move quickly from that position. The warrior is set in one of Masriadi's classical poses, and the frame is cropped to display the overdeveloped muscles polished in shiny black, adding to the unnatural look of the character. Every hair of the mustache is delineated, contrasting with the smooth, shiny body. The red of his eyes brings fear; however, the look of the eyes also displays tiredness, maybe one battle too many.

    man with several swords and a necklace
    Figure \(\PageIndex{20}\): Old Master (Angry Samuro) (acrylic on canvas, 2016, 299.7 x 199.8 cm) (j-NoCC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
    A visit into Nyoman Masriadi's world

    A visit to Nyoman Masriadi's home and art world. 

    Additional text/introduction.

    Georgette Chen

    Georgette Chen (1906-1993) (born Chang Li Ying) was one of twelve children. Chen was born in China, and her father was an antique dealer who had traveled the world. She spent most of her childhood in Paris and China and attended high school in the United States. Chen's family only spoke Mandarin at home to maintain their Chinese culture. Because she had a privileged life, Chen studied art early in life, even studying at some of the Académies in Paris. In 1930, Chen's art was selected for an exhibition in Paris, and she married the same year. Her husband was active in political affairs, so they returned to China. During World War II, her husband was arrested, imprisoned, and died shortly after. After the war, Chen married again and moved to New York City and Paris. By the 1950s, Chen had divorced her husband and moved to Singapore, where she created most of her significant art. 

    In Chen's early work, she used heavy brush strokes to create texture. When she painted Still Life with Cut Apple and Orange (11.3.21), she was in Paris and influenced by Paul Cézanne. The oranges in the painting bounce out of the image with the dominant orange color. The red apples are somewhat moved to the background, and the cut side of the apples uses the background colors, the red muted. The knife stuck in the one orange is jarring as though anger is forcing the knife deep into the orange. The different tones of gray and beige form the background, moving from the cloth on the table to the inside of the bowl. Although Chen traveled the world and lived in different cities, she did live through two Chinese revolutions and two world wars. She appears steely in her Self-Portrait (11.3.22), maybe saying I can survive anything. Chen's red lips, the focal color of the painting, are positioned to support the feelings of survival. Her hair is perfectly placed, with a tight hair roll, and her clothing is dark and unassuming. The bold English lettering of her name supports the idea of her ability to say here I am.

    bowl of oranges and apples on a table
    Figure \(\PageIndex{21}\): Still Life with Cut Apple and Orange (oil on panel, c. 1928-1930, 34 x 26 cm) (Jack at WikipediaCC BY-SA 2.0)
    painting of a close up of a womans head with black hair
    Figure \(\PageIndex{22}\): Self Portrait (oil on canvas, 1946) (MordantgroveCC BY-SA 4.0)
    At home in the world

    Uncover the fascinating story of Georgette Chen (1906-1993), a key figure in the development of modern art in Singapore. The first museum retrospective of the artist in more than 20 years, this exhibition will feature her most significant works alongside a wealth of newly discovered archival materials.


    Zao Wou-ki 

    Zao Wou-ki (1921-2013) was born in Beijing and returned to his family home in Jiangsu province as a small child. Zao attended the Hangzhou School of Fine Arts and the China Academy of Art, receiving intense training in calligraphy and oil painting. After World War II, Zao went to Paris to study and meet his wife, who was a composer. In Paris, he wanted to investigate integrating his knowledge of Chinese ink painting and Western oil paint art aesthetics. Paul Klee's work significantly influenced him and how they were partially surreal and partly symbolic. After Zao divorced his wife, he visited the United States and saw the Abstract Expressionist paintings. During this period, Zao started working on his unique style of abstraction. When he returned to Europe, Zao traveled to different countries and studied the styles of architecture and landscaping, which differed from the Chinese style. Zao noted, "Looking at the architecture of cities helps me think about the arrangement of space on the canvas."[10]

    Cathédrale et Ses Environs (11.3.23) demonstrates the influence of architecture as the basic scene starts near the riverside. With lines and color, Zao moves the viewer upwards to the cathedral near the top by the curve of the moon. He used the paintbrush handle to scrape lines into the paint and added fine black lines. Zao used a limited color palette by adding water to let the paint move and flow, a method he learned from Chinese ink-wash effects. The diluted paint brings shifting hues that concentrate or disperse color by layering. La Nuit Remue (11.3.24) painting is reminiscent of a Chinese landscape except in abstraction. The dark sky is punctuated by red bubbling up from the depths of the painting and climbing up the center. The night broken by browns presents the viewer with the concept of change: is the night starting, or is dawn about to break? The pictographs resembling nightbirds appear to be moving towards the light. 

    green and orange paper with drawings of a city
    Figure \(\PageIndex{23}\): Cathédrale et Ses Environs (oil on canvas, 1951, 97 x 130 cm) (Gandalf's GalleryCC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
    blue background with white, black and red smoke
    Figure \(\PageIndex{24}\): La Nuit Remue (The Night is Stirring) (oil on canvas, 1956, 193 x 130 cm) (mark6maunoCC BY-NC 2.0)
    The powerful hurrican paintings of Zao Wou-Ki

    Master artist Zao Wou-Ki was one of the titans of Chinese art in the post- war period. His energetic painting ‘13.02.62’, offered in our upcoming auction Beyond Legends: Modern Art Evening Sale (18 April | Hong Kong), is from the artist’s powerful 'Hurricane Period’ when he arrived at the pinnacle of his career. Discover how Zao perfectly fused Eastern culture with Western modernism, bringing dynamic inspiration to this work.


    Tyeb Mehta

    Tyeb Mehta (1925-2009) was born in Gujarat and lived in Mumbai as a child. He graduated from art school and joined the Bombay Progressive Artists' Group. He was one of the first artists of his generation in the post-colonial period, free from British-controlled art. Mehta also traveled between London and New York before permanently staying in India. As a young man in India, he witnessed the battles and riots of India's turmoil. The anguish of people killed in the riots haunted him forever and became reflected in his work. Mehta began to express his long-held emotional horrors in his artwork based on a bull he saw on an Egyptian vase. The bull was tied up, and all the power and dominance associated with the bull were held powerless and vulnerable, expressing his feelings. Mehta evolved from a singular image of a bull to images seeming to interlock, almost like a jigsaw puzzle. The angular forms use color to differentiate the parts. 

    Mahisasura (11.3.25) is part of a series about the Brahmin legend of the Demon-King Rambha who had a son from a she-buffalo. Following the death of his parents, Mahisasura gained more extraordinary powers. The figures are juxtaposed using linear and volume concepts as Mehta changes the front and profile angles. He used strongly contrasting colors and defined lines to assemble the parts of each element. Mehta's work has been compared to Pablo Picasso's, both inspired by the bull and broken, angular positions. Bulls (11.3.26) are two large panels painted with six brown bulls appearing to float in the air. At first glance, the viewer only sees two bulls; however, a closer examination reveals Mehta's use of pieces and how the bulls are positioned, becoming six bulls. The bulls appear detached, simply proceeding towards an undefined end. 

    red steer with orange man with a black shadow
    Figure \(\PageIndex{25}\): Mahisasura (acrylic on canvas, 1997, 149.9 x 121.9 cm) (CC BY 2.0)
    outlines of animals in brown
    Figure \(\PageIndex{26}\): Bulls (acrylic on canvas: diptych, 2005, 198 x 152.4 cm each) (CC BY 2.0)
    Tyeb Mehta's Paintings

    In this video I shared some creative and amazing artworks of a famous Indian Artist Tyeb Mehta , So I hope you all love this video and I wish his paintings inspire you to do more in Life.

    Additional text/introduction.


    [1] Bridging the Diverse Foundations of 20th-Century Asian Art


    [3] Chiura Obata

    [4] Obata: “Eagle Peak Trail” 

    [5] Obata: Lake Basin in the High Sierra

    [6] Asian/American/Modern Art: Shifting Currents, 1900-1970

    [7] Revolutionary Ink: The Paintings of Wu Guanzhong

    [8] National Paths and Prophecies: Wu Guanzhong, History, and the Global in early 1980s China

    [9] Singh, N. I. (1975). Amrita Sher-Gil. India International Centre Quarterly2(3), 209–217. 

    [10] Christies


    • Was this article helpful?