China: painting and printmaking in the 20th century

With the end of the Qing dynasty in 1911, Chinese painters began to widen their search for new ideas. Artists such as Gao Qifeng (1889-1933), Xu Beihong (1895-1953) and Lin Fengmian (1900-91) studied in Japan and in the West, returning to China to teach the new styles and techniques they had learnt abroad.

The fusion of traditional and Western elements had been a major factor in Chinese painting styles from the start of the Qing dynasty in 1644, both in works of ink and colour on paper, and in oils. The literati landscape tradition continued well into the twentieth century in the work of such painters as Huang Binhong (1864-1955) and Fu Baoshi (1904-65). Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), a major master, developed abstract-expressionist styles from his traditional training. More recently, the important developments in Chinese painting have come not only from the People's Republic, but also from Taiwan, Hong Kong and the United States of America.

Tradition and innovation are also combined in twentieth-century prints. A new departure, however, was the development of the print as a medium of individual artistic creativity, rather than a craft produced by anonymous artisans. This change came about with the Modern Woodcut Movement of the late 1920s, in which Lu Xun (1881-1936) revived print making and introduced European and Russian styles as a new popular form of graphic art. Traditional popular prints, however, are still made, especially for holidays, where the use of seventeenth-century techniques of colour printing for making fine reproductions of paintings is continued.

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