Pioneer with ink celebrated in show at National Museum of Art

National art museum celebrates Chinese artist Qian Songyan’s 120th birth anniversary, Lin Qi reports.

The last words of Qian Songyan (1899-1985), a classic Chinese painting master and educator, were: “Spring silkworms continuously produce silk until death.”

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Qian quoted the verse from a ninth-century Chinese poem to summarize his commitment to the centuries-old style of ink painting. He presented the tradition in a modern context in his artworks.

Qian’s career spanning some six decades shows his transformation from a literati who followed traditional teachings to that of a 20th-century Chinese ink art pioneer, making the style, formerly of scholarly seclusion, more realistic and accessible to common people.

He showed an early gift in painting when entering a private school at age 8. But it was not until his 50s that Qian became artistically mature and gradually gained prominence in the field. Before that he was a little-known teacher of painting at schools for three decades, struggling with meager incomes and frequently moving cities because of war and social chaos.

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