Rare View in Rainy Haze——Commemorative Exhibition of the 70th Anniversary of Li Keran’s Sketching

  • show time:2024-03-29 to 2024-05-05
  • Organizer:China Artists Association, Central Academy of Fine Arts, China National Academy of Painting, Li Keran Art Foundation and Beijing Fine Art Academy,
  • venue:Beijing Fine Art Academy
        Sponsored by China Artists Association, Central Academy of Fine Arts, China National Academy of Painting, Li Keran Art Foundation and Beijing Fine Art Academy, the “Rare View in Rainy Haze——Commemorative Exhibition of the 70th Anniversary of Li Keran’s Sketching” will open to the public on March 29 at the Art Museum of Beijing Fine Art Academy. As the 62nd of the “Series exhibitions of 20th century Chinese art maters”, the commemorative exhibition will take the change-over between Li Keran’s sketching and creation as the research subject to display Li Keran’s masterpieces such as the landscape paintings, sketching insights and “landscape paintings of Li Keran style” accomplished in his early years and will probe into his journey of art of learning from ancient paintings and from nature to “being self-centered and integrating with nature“.
        The 1950s could be the most important decade in Li Keran’s art career, which marks the transition of his learning from the ink tradition led by Qi Baishi and Huang Binhong to sketching from nature as well as the outset of his own landscape painting style being established. The year 1954 was a critical year for Li Keran to start his sketching. This year 2024 is the 70th anniversary of Li Keran’s sketching in regions south of the Yangtze River. The Art Museum of Beijing Fine Art Academy will focus on the display of Li Keran’s 70 masterpieces to pay tribute to the important Chinese artist devoted to the modern transformation of Chinese paintings.
Praiseworthy Courage and Staunch Willpower
        When Li Keran preliminarily entered the art circle, he won wide acclaim for his traditional Chinese landscape paintings. Later on, he was involved in literati painting and drew in a succinct, unrestrained and elegant way. With Li Keran being his student, Qi Baishi had ever inscribed the Eight Crabs drawn by Li Keran: “What Sima Sheung-yu wrote prevailed in the past and Li Keran’s calligraphy and paintings can prevail as well.” Li Keran was also exposed to Western painting at an early age. At the age of 16, he was admitted to Private Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, where he began to engage in Western painting. At the age of 22, he was admitted to the graduate department of National Hangzhou Academy of Art, where he majored in sketch and oil painting under Lin Fengmian. 
        In 1946, at the invitation of Xu Beihong, Li Keran came to National Beiping Art College to teach Chinese painting. In the early days after the founding of P.R.C., the flourishing social development and enterprising spiritual outlook put forward the request of the times to the Chinese art circle for presenting new landscapes, new look and new achievements of the country. Nonetheless, under the influence of nihilism, the then Central Academy of Fine Arts abolished the department of Chinese painting. Li Keran could only teach watercolour at the department of painting by dint of Western painting he learned in the early years. The Chinese painting was confronted with the crisis of survival.
        In defiance of arduous conditions and the difficulty in the reform, Li Keran linked the fate of reforming Chinese painting to his own. In 1950, he published an article On Transformation of Chinese Painting in the first issue of People’s Fine Arts, being the first to hold that artists should go deep into life and nature to re-explore the source of Chinese painting. In 1954, Li Keran, together with Zhang Ding and Luo Ming, was resolved to go down to the south to sketch from nature. With the remuneration of one hundred yuan prepaid by New Observation, they sought artistic inspiration from vast mountains and rivers. Before going on the sketching trip, he specially asked Deng Sanmu to have carved two seals of “praiseworthy courage” and “staunch willpower” to show his determination to transform the Chinese landscape painting. 
         The sketching trip lasted three months. Faced with the lyrical misty rain in regions south of the Yangtze River, Li Keran restored the reality of vision with Chinese ink tradition. He kept an eye on everything he saw when sketching and attempted to manifest in a language of new form the natural charm obtained from in-position viewing of nature. The diversity and richness of techniques showcased in such paintings as Rare View in Rainy Haze and Every Family Is in the Painted Screen were refreshing. At the exhibition held after his return to Beijing, Li Keran saw his paintings winning wide acclaim as if like a rock thrown into a lake and setting off an upsurge of sketching in the art circle, kindling artists’ love and passion for the beauty of the motherland.
Writing a Biography for the Beautiful Motherland 
        “Landscape paintings we draw are to sing the praises of the beautiful motherland and speak volumes for the patriotism.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                 ——Li Keran
        In 1956, the Central Academy of Fine Arts set up a Chinese painting innovation group. Li Keran, who had made breakthroughs in sketching and thus became one of the members of the innovation group, continued his trip to seek new sources of Chinese landscape painting by spurring on himself to “see all famous places and visit all famous mountains”. In the years that followed, Li Keran painted from sceneries, people and life and, from the times as well. He went down for the second time to regions south of the Yangtze River, set foot on land of Sichuan, wandered about the Lijiang River and strolled around streets and alleyways in Germany. The more he drew, the clearer were the new landscape painting techniques on his mind. A wealth of famous classics came into being from his paintbrushes in art history. He combined Chinese ink tradition and context spirit with real life and nature, opening up a new aesthetic artistic conception for landscape painting.
Dawn in the East
        “Some say Chinese literary and artistic tradition has come to a dead end, whereas I have foreseen the dawn of the oriental renaissance. Hence I quote [coming of dawn in the east], words in the last sentence of Su Tungpo’s Red Cliff Ode, as a testimony of what I say.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                         —— Li Keran
         Learn from nature, reproduce nature and surpass nature. From decades of years of sketching practice starting with the painting Watching the Waterfall Under the Pine Tree to the Song of A River Flowing Alongside Mountains painted in 1989, Li Keran had gone through a lengthy and arduous road of art. He cared about mountains and rivers with the Chinese philosophy and redrew sky and earth with the artists’ aesthetics, seeking after the new realm of Chinese painting while motivating the new vigor of the tradition. Li Keran in his later years had attained the perfection of ink painting, truly realizing the unity of mind and painting. He was proud of Chinese cultural connotation and was confident in the spirit of Chinese painting. Not only has Li Keran’s exploration in landscape painting propelled the modernization transformation of the Chinese painting but it has all the more opened up the national style standing erect in world art circles. 
         The commemorative exhibition seeks to make Li Keran’s painting career to reappear. Through ingenious combination of exhibition design and artistic works, the exhibition invites viewers to have a romantic trip of spring to visit with Li Keran the bustling Summer Palace, the poetic and picturesque Fuchun River, the Heavenly Capital Peak beholding the sun blazing forth from a cloudy sky, the Baicao Garden in memory, the tranquil and gentle mountain city of Chongqing as well as the towering European mediaeval structures to appreciate the beautiful land and feel the fiery and passionate heart of the artist for the nature. 
         The exhibition will last till May 5, 2024.