Tuen Mun tribute to painter Xu Beihong heralds Year of the Horse

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 January, 2014, 5:01am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 January, 2014, 5:01am

An exhibition of famous Chinese paintings is set to get Year of the Horse celebrations up and running.

Paintings by Xu Beihong, the man credited with setting the direction of modern Chinese painting, form part of an exhibition of three generations of the Xu family's work at Tuen Mun Town Plaza.

Xu is famous for his paintings of horses, said to capture the mood of China during the early 1900s when Japanese invasion was imminent. His works have sold for millions of dollars.

"These are not the horses of today," said son Xu Qingping, surveying paintings by his late father now installed in the centre of a mall flanked by the trappings of capitalism.

The horses are lean, muscular and military, "with an air of tragedy", each ink stroke telling of the turbulent times in which Xu Beihong lived. The younger Xu also paints horses but says his are much more relaxed and "fat".

Xu Beihong, while a revolutionary who raised money for the relief effort by selling his paintings overseas, was a proponent of taking on Western traditions in art.

He feared China's tradition of painting was stalling, with most painters having little real talent as it was considered a pastime for academics or the rich rather than a professional pursuit.

Lions, although not native to China, were another favourite subject of Xu Beihong, representing what was noble and majestic, according to Xu Qingping.

Much of the older Xu's work is now the property of the Chinese government - his wife donated all of his works to the state after his death in 1954. Most are in the artist's former home in Beijing, now a museum.

The exhibition runs until February 16. It includes five sketches that have never gone on public display before and date back to Xu Beihong's time in India in the company of the poet Rabindranath Tagore.


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