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.