Flowers, Insects, and Bird Paintings

Hsu Pei-hung (1895 - 1953)

Hanging Scroll, Ink and Color on Rice Paper, 44.5 x 11 in., (113 x 28 cm.)

Chu Griffis Collection #115Hsu Pei-hung is another well-known artist whos work we are proud to have in our collection. I remember him well as professor of art in National Central University where I was student during the war. His entire life was spent on art--painting, collecting and teaching. He has had broad influence in China.

Reaching his high reputation in art was not easy. As a child his father taught him how to paint. The family was poor. He struggled to find a job in nearby Shanghai, but failed. He managed to go to Japan to study for a short time. All that happened before his father died when Hsu Pei-hung was nineteen. finally at the age of twenty-four, with the help of a scholarship, he went to France and Germany to study Western art. Six years of hard study in Europe earned him a reputation as a "Western artist" in China. He kept some of his western living habits when he lived and taught art in Shanghai. One book describes his first two years back in China as "living in the Bohemian manner,wearing long hair, a velvet coat, flowing tie and suggesting the Latin Quarter." As his teaching and art administration career flourished in different universities in Shanghai, Nanjing and Peking he switched to long gowns and even painted in a new and largely Chinese manner.

It is understandable that he wanted to bridge the gulf between his Western training and Chinese painting experienceand cultural background. He favored realism and stressed rigid training in a sketching method as the basis of painting. This differs markedly from the traditional way of copying and tracing works by old masters. Today his insistence upon intensive sketching practice prevails among many current artists. Professor Hsu died in 1953 while he was president of Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, leaving over 1,200 pieces of his own paintings to the government which has since established an impressive museum in his honor.

Hsu was a versatile painter. In addition to figure painting, his horse paintings are eagerly sought after. Other subjects are birds, ducks, and so on. Our Magpie is an example of this versatility. It was painted for his friend Chiang Yee, the world famous author known as the "Silent Traveller."

This painting was purchased with funds provided by our friends Mr. and Mrs. Willard Brown in March, 1997.