Masterpieces of 20th-Century Chinese Painting


By the end of the 19th century, Chinese and Western painters began to learn from each otherís works. East Asian painting had a profound influence on modern Western painters such as Van Gogh and, later, the American Abstract Expressionists. For Chinese painters, the introduction of Western painting techniques in the 1920s and the modern art concept in the 1950s opened a whole new world for them. Therefore, 20th-century Chinese painting is one of the most exciting chapters in the history of Chinese art.

This exhibition deals with paintings done in the traditional painting media of China, namely, Chinese ink and/or colours applied with Chinese brushes on paper or silk. It includes works from the major periods of development of Chinese painting in this century.

At the beginning of the 20th century, all the great masters were trained wholly in the scholarly styles of painting of imperial China. Wu Changshuo and Qi Baishi were among the most famous.

In the first quarter of the century, some younger painters studied the art of Western painting abroad. Upon their return to China, they chose to combine their knowledge of Western art with the use of traditional Chinese materials and techniques. They started a whole new development in Chinese painting.

By the middle of the 20th century there was war and political turmoil in China, which directly influenced the development of Chinese painting. However, great art continued to be created.

After 1976, Chinese painters enjoyed an unprecedented artistic freedom. The older masters could further develop their individual styles. The younger generation was free to start new experiments.


As we appreciate art, share our aspirations, and enrich our understanding of one another, the Canadian Foundation for the Preservation of Chinese Cultural and Historical Treasures, in association with the Royal Ontario Museum, wishes to draw your attention to the importance of preserving cultural and historical treasures, to ensure that the rich and vibrant cultural heritage of humanity will continue to be a lasting legacy for us all to enjoy.


This exhibition is organized by the Canadian Foundation for the Preservation of Chinese Cultural and Historical Treasures and the China International Exhibition Agency, in partnership with the Royal Ontario Museum. Collection of the Hong Kong Museum of Art available by permission of the Provisional Urban Council of Hong Kong. The assistance of the Government of Canada through Canadian Heritage and Canadaís Year of Asia Pacific is gratefully acknowledged.

next return

Introduction | Materials and Techniques | The New Chinese Ink Painting Movement | Life and Art | Modernization and Westernization | The Scholarly Tradition | From Revolution to Evolution

Gallery | Documentation | Credits