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      Influenced by foreign art theories and local revolutionary movements, some enlightened painters in the early twentieth century openly denounced the stereo-typed form of traditional painting and advocated a new direction in which artists were encouraged to experiment and to pursue their own personal style.


      The 'Three Masters of the Lingnan School', Gao Jianfu (1879 - 1951), Gao Qifeng (1889 - 1933) and Chen Shu-Ren (1883 - 1948), were the leading figures in this new art movement. In the course of their avocation for a reformation on the art of painting, they succeeded in creating paintings with styles distinctly of their own. The artistic achievements of the three masters have been widely recognized as they brought forth a new phase in the development of Chinese painting. The Lingnan school of painting founded on the basis of the work of these masters still enjoys a vast following in Hong Kong.


     To introduce the artistic achievements of these Guangdong masters, the Urban Council's Hong Kong Museum of Art organized an exhibition ' "The Art of Gao Jianfu" last year. This exhibition, "The An of Chen Shu-Ren", which is presented to coincide with the Fifth Festival of Asian Arts, will provide a chance for local and overseas an lovers to get a more comprehensive picture of the an of another Lingnan master.


      Chen Shu-Ren, whose original name was Shao, alias Nianhua-weixiaozi, Dean-laoren and Ershan-shanqiao, was born at Mingjing Village of Panyu District in the Guangdong Province. At the age of seventeen, he studied painting under Ju Lian, the great flower painter of Guangdong. Later he went to Japan twice for further study. In 1906 he entered the Kyoto Art Academy, and in 1913 he studied for the degree of the Bachelor of Arts at the Rikkyo University, Tokyo. Chen is well-known for his bird-and-flower, landscape and animal paintings. Though the influence of his teacher and the style of Nihonga can still be seen in some of his earlier works, yet he had successfully developed his own style of paintings by his middle age.


      In this exhibition, one can easily sense the quiet and yet animated verve of the artist. He did not place emphasis on complexity of pictorial content or astounding techniques but he did try to free himself from the restraints of traditional painting. The images of his paintings are simple and straightforward, and so is the form of his brushwork. In painting rocks, he tried to keep the use of traditional textural strokes to the minimum. In painting flowers, he applied colours directly onto the painting surface to achieve the desired tones and shapes at the same time without resort to the use of outlines. The new compositional formats of many of his paintings and his personal style of brushwork combined to make him one of the outstanding Chinese painters in the early pan of this century.


      Besides being an outstanding artist, Chen was also an active member in the political circle. He assisted Dr.  Sun Yixian, father of the Chinese Republic, in his revolutionary campaign from its onset. After the establishment of the Chinese Republic, he held various important offices in the government including the Minister of Civil Affairs in Guangdong and Head of the Committee for Overseas Chinese Affairs. Although he was assiduously engaged in political and administrative affairs, he never gave up his pursuit in an. In his career, we see the dual success of a politician and an artist.


      We are most grateful to Mr. Chen Shih, who is the son of the artist, for providing us with most of the exhibits from his family collection. Our gratitude is also due to Mr. Au Yeung Lun, Mr.ChaoShao-an, Mr. Chow Kam-wing, Mr. Huo Pao-tsai, Mr. Kao Li-chieh, and Mr.  Kong Chung, Mr. Lai Ming, Mr. Lee Kiu-fong, Mr. Ng .Wai-kai, Mr. Tseng Tso-yam, Mr. Young Sing-sum for  the generous loan of their valuable collections, and to  Mr. Chuang Shen, Head of the Department of Fine Arts  of the University of Hong Kong, for contributing an  article on the an of Chen Shu-Ren for the catalogue. My thanks goes to all my friends and members of staff of  the Museum who kindly assisted in the preparation of  this exhibition.


    Laurence C.S. Tarn

   Curator Hong Kong Museum of Art         October, 1980



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