An exhibition of Xu Beihong’s Chinese paintings kicks off in NAMOC: a rare gathering of 13 “Horses”


Majestic horses, roosters on a precipitous cliff, and agile and adorable cats... Drawings of the famous painter Xu Beihong are always filled with an inspiring spiritual force. On August 20, “The Spirit of Galloping Horses: Exhibition of Traditional Chinese Paintings by Xu Beihong” kicked off at the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC), displaying more than 40 pieces of Mr. Xu’s Chinese paintings and calligraphy works. The exhibition commemorates Mr. Xu, an art pioneer of the People’s Republic of China and promotes his innovative spirit in art.

Entering the round hall on the first floor, one is greeted by 13 paintings of “horses” created by Mr. Xu. Depicted in various postures, they are galloping, looking back, or bending to graze. The works are arranged in a circle along the wall, leaving the audience in awe. According to the introduction of Mr. Wu Weishan, president of the NAMOC, these “horses” paintings are composed of seven pieces from the NAMOC, five pieces from the Guizhou Provincial Museum, and one piece from the Jiangsu Art Museum. “The 13 horses are running toward us with Mr. Xu’s sentiments, the warmth of his brushes, and our deep reverence and remembrance of him,” said Mr. Wu.

Galloping horses by Mr. Xu Beihong are well renowned around the world; in addition, roosters, cats, and other animals painted by him are also remarkably true to life. Among the exhibits, there is one called Shuang Ji Tu created in 1942, in which a rooster, whose crown is as red as fire, stands upright and holds its head high. It raises its tail feathers high in the sky, totally like a brave warrior. Mr. Xu appreciates roosters’ gallantry and tenacity, so he extols Chinese people’s unyielding national spirit by drawing them. In the exhibition, cat-themed paintings by Mr. Xu are also common to see, in which the cats have lively eyes and lifelike postures.

During the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, arriving in Guizhou many times, Mr. Xu Beihong deepened his relationship with the people, natural landscapes, and specialties of the province as time went by. He creatively explored painting on Guizhou native paper, producing massive masterpieces. As Mr. Liao Jingwen said, horses by Mr. Xu are actually “galloping” on Guizhou native paper. His horses, pride and vigorous with unique characteristics, inspire artists of different times to create loads of masterpieces representative of the Chinese spirit, epoch style, and international perspective.Corresponding to “The Spirit of Galloping Horses: Exhibition of Traditional Chinese Paintings by Xu Beihong”, “Starting from ‘Xu Beihong’s Guizhou Native Paper’: Exhibition of Chinese New Experience Art Works” is on display during the same period of time. Supported by the China National Arts Fund (CNAF), the exhibition gathers a batch of art pieces by contemporary Chinese painters, all of which are drawn on special materials made by Guizhou’s ancient paper-making techniques. There are more than 10 ancient paper-making techniques in Guizhou province that have been added to the national-level or provincial-level intangible cultural heritage lists. To practice Mr. Xu’s idea of innovating Chinese paintings with Guizhou native paper, the Guizhou Art Museum has carried out the “Starting from ‘Xu Beihong’s Guizhou Native Paper’: Exhibition of Chinese New Experience Art Works” for two years. It has invited over 200 famous artists to Guizhou to experience the ancient paper-making techniques and communicate, interact, and cooperate with intangible cultural heritage inheritors, promoting the contemporary innovation of Chinese paintings. The exhibition will last until August 29. 

Translator: Li Xiaochun

Reviewer: ZHAO Huinan