China’s fine art traditions, practices, and imagery can be linked to each significant political moment of its history, reflecting and responding to the mainstream political ideology, expectations, and academic discourse of the time. The exhibition Dong Yifang: Painting Through a Century of Change in China explores this connection through a visual survey of the life’s work of Chinese ink painter Dong Yifang as he finds his artistic voice through three distinct periods of Chinese history.
Dong Yifang (1925-2006) is one of few Chinese artists who worked continuously through the periods of the Republic of China (1911-1949), High Socialism (1949-1976), and Reform (1977-present). Dong began his artistic practice in the 1930s by developing a solid foundation in traditional Chinese painting through his studies with teacher and painter Qin Zhongwen (1896-1974). At the Beijing College of Art, from 1942-1945, Dong learned oil painting from Wei Tianlin (1898-1977), an impressionist who had studied in Japan. In 1946, Dong studied watercolor painting at Fu Jen University and worked with Gustav Ecke at Beijing College of Art. Through these experiences, Dong Yifang became skilled in both Western and traditional Chinese painting techniques. Early in his career, Dong’s work reflected his studies and understanding of traditional artistic practices; his paintings also revealed a love for the landscape. During the period of High Socialism, Dong struggled with the limitations that resulted from the politicization of art, as socialist realism became the official art style of the People’s Republic of China. Finally, during the period of Reform (1977-present), modern Western art was reintroduced, and Dong Yifang found the freedom he needed to continue his artistic development. In the 1990s, Dong established a method of painting by building upon the techniques of traditional Chinese ink painting and incorporating Western-influenced naturalism. His final works reveal not only a unique understanding of material, light, space, and form, but a thought-provoking commentary on the artist’s never-ending search for mastery of craft and originality of voice within a world of political and social change.
Dong Yifang: Painting Through a Century of Change in China will feature ink paintings and sketches by Dong Yifang, supplemented by original art work of Dong’s teachers, colleagues, and students: Qin Zhongwen (1896-1974), Lu Yanshao (1909-1993), Song Wenzhi (1919-2000), Wei Tianlin (1898-1977), and Wang Yani (b. 1975).
董义方是少数从民国时期（1911-1949）、高度社会主义时期（1949-1976）到中国改革开放（1977年至今）期间持续创作的中国国画家之一。自三十年代起，董义方拜同乡长辈秦仲文（1896-1974）为师，学习传统中国绘画并进入黄宾虹主持的故宫博物院古物陈列所国画研究馆临摹古画，打下了坚实的传统国画理论和技法基础。在国立北平艺术专科学校油画系学习期间（1942-1945），董义方师从曾经留学日本的中国印象派画家卫天霖学习油画。1946年又在北平辅仁大学学习水彩画，并追随秦仲文、爱新觉罗·溥伒(学斋)、爱新觉罗·溥佺（松窗）、吴镜汀、田世光、王世骧及德裔中国家具专家古斯塔夫·埃克（Gustav Ecke）等艺坛师长在北平艺专一起工作。通过这些经验，董义方熟练地掌握了西洋油画和中国传统水墨画技法。在职业生涯早期，他的作品反映了他对传统绘画的研究及创作的理解，也显示了他对山水画的钟爱。在高度社会主义时期，因为社会现实主义成为中国的官方艺术风格，董义方的艺术创作也受到了艺术政治化的影响。最终在改革开放时期（1977年至今），随着现代西方绘画再度被引入中国，董义方重新找到了艺术创作的自由，因而得以继续发展自己的绘画风格。在20世纪90年代, 董义方成功地发展出把西方自然主义技法融入中国传统水墨中的淡墨画法。在他艺术生涯晚期的作品中不仅揭示了他对物质、光线、空间和形象的独特理解，并且体现了一个艺术家在政治和社会变革中对于掌握技法和艺术原创孜孜不倦的探索，这种艺术表现尤其发人深省。
本次展览《董义方：图绘中国百年变迁》 将展示董义方不同时期的作品及其师秦仲文 (1896-1974), 好友陆俨少(1909-1993)、宋文治(1919-2000)和学生王亚妮(1975生)的作品。