More than 200 paintings of the “Two Jus” selected from museums locally and in Guangdong will be on display at the Hong Kong Museum of Art from tomorrow (October 31) to February 1, 2009.
The exhibition, “Strolling in the Fragrant Garden: Paintings of Ju Chao and Ju Lian”, is jointly presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) and Guangzhou Municipal Cultural Bureau, co-organised by the Hong Kong Museum of Art and Guangzhou Museum of Art. Participating museums include Guangdong Provincial Museum, Dongguan Municipal Museum, Keyuan Museum of Dongguan, and Art Museum of The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the exhibition today (October 30), the Assistant Director (Heritage and Museums) of the Leisure and Cultural Services, Dr Louis Ng Chi-wa, said Ju Chao and Ju Lian were significant artists of the late Qing dynasty in the history of Guangdong painting. The exhibition, which is organised with the Guangzhou Museum of Art, presents a fine selection of the two Jus’ works from public collections in Guangdong and Hong Kong and provides a rare opportunity to review their artistic accomplishments and mark the 180th anniversary of Ju Lian’s birth.
“The LCSD has had collaboration with Guangzhou Museum of Art previously in presenting several exhibitions, such as “Exhibition to Commemorate the 100th Birthday of Chao Shao-an”, “Hong Kong International Poster Triennial Travelling Exhibition”. These exhibitions demonstrate a close connection in art and culture between Guangdong and Hong Kong in the past and present. The current exhibition also provides an opportunity of collaboration among the cultural institutes in these two places and fosters cultural interflow in the Pearl River Delta,” Dr Ng said.
Known as the “Two Jus”, the cousins Ju Chao (1811 – 1865) and Ju Lian (1828 – 1904) were natives of Guangdong, where their forefathers established home in Geshan, Panyu (modern Guangzhou), after migrating from Jiangsu. Because of their close relationship, they shared the same origins in painting and same stylistics.
While serving in the private secretariat of Zhang Jingxiu (1824 – 1864) in Guangxi, the “Two Jus” learned the art under Song Guangbao and Meng Jinyi (both active circa the mid-19th century) and sought to emulate Chen Chun (1483-1544) of the Ming dynasty and Yun Shouping (1633-1690) of the Qing dynasty in bird-and-flower painting. They were deeply inspired by the “boneless” style practiced by the two earlier masters in still life paintings.
As professed in his inscriptions, Ju Chao prized formal likeness in still life painting. This belief of his found precedent and consolidation in the meticulously realistic birds-and-flowers paintings of the Song dynasty that he studied closely. Ju Lian followed his cousin’s example to study and observe the plants, birds and insects that he was to paint.
As for techniques, the Two Jus strove to build on Yun Shouping’s “boneless” style. While Yun was known for using a fully soaked brush to mix water and colour well, the cousins went a step further and invented the ingenious water infusion and powder infusion methods. The result brings out most convincingly the tonal gradation, light and shade and the turgidity of the subjects and has proved to be a technique most suited for depicting the plants and insects found in Lingnan, or Guangdong, area.
To the Two Jus, their hometown was central to their art. The microcosmic world inhabited by plants, birds, fishes and insects indigenous to the Pearl Delta where they called home makes up the bulk of their extant small paintings. These gifts from Nature provided the Two Jus with their preferred subjects. The vitality radiating from their compositions is often highlighted by the presence of small insects like bees, butterflies, dragonflies, katydids and mantises.
Ke and Daosheng Gardens, built by Zhang Jingxiu, featured prominently in the Two Jus’ artistic career. The garden not only witnessed Ju Chao’s many literary gatherings with other men of letters but also the making of many of his masterpieces. After Ju Lian returned to Geshan in Guangzhou with his cousin Ju Chao, he built the Garden of Ten Fragrances and began his professional career in painting by giving painting lessons in the garden for 40 years until his death.
Of the two cousins, Ju Lian had trained more students in painting. Among them, Gao Jianfu (1879 – 1951) and Chen Shuren (1884 – 1948) went to Japan in search for a catalyst to rejuvenate Chinese painting and eventually became the founding fathers of the Lingnan School of Painting. In this context, Ju Lian should perhaps be credited for sowing the seeds in the then aspiring reformists.
To tie in with the exhibition, a series of lectures will be organised on November 1, 15 and 29 from 2.30pm to 4.30pm. Entitled “Rural Painting by Ju Chao and Ju Lian”, “Anecdotes of Ju Chao and Ju Lian” and “From the two Jus’ Studio to their Works”, these lectures will be given respectively by the Deputy Director of Guangzhou Museum of Art, Ms Chen Ying, the Doctoral candidate of the Institute of Ancient Chinese Document, Zhongshan University, Mr Liang Jiyong, and the Curator (Xubaizhai) of Hong Kong Museum of Art, Mr Szeto Yuen-kit. Conducted in Cantonese, the lectures are free and 150 seats are available on a first-come-first-served basis. In addition, a fully illustrated catalogue will be published and available at the Gift Shop of the Museum of Art.
The Museum of Art is located at 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It opens from 10am to 6pm from Sunday to Wednesday and Fridays, and from 10am to 8pm on Saturdays. On Christmas Eve and Chinese New Year’s Eve, the museum will close at 5pm. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays) and the first two days of Chinese New Year. Admission is $10 and a half-price concession is available to full-time students, senior citizens and people with disabilities. Admission is free on Wednesdays.
For enquiries, call 2721 0116 or visit the Museum of Art's website http://hk.art.museum/.
Ends/Thursday, October 30, 2008
This "New Year Offerings" belongs to the genre of New Year painting. The peony, narcissus, "lingzhi", grapes, flat peaches, fingered citrons and persimmon in this painting are symbols of good fortune and blessings. Ju Lian has depicted them with high realism, and the subjects seem to burst with life. The pictorial composition is close-knit and rich in visual appeal.
Ju Chao applied the "boneless method" in this painting "Cicada and Lychee". To create a succulent form and bright red colour of the lychees, a brush loaded with pigment is applied directly onto the surface to create fat, round dots. Then a darker shade of red is applied to add texture to the lychee peel. Since there is no outlining of forms, it is called the "boneless method". For the leaves, a grassy green wash is first applied and before it dries, a few drops of water or thinned out white powdery ink are dripped onto the green wash, thus producing a variegated effect. This is a method invented by the two Jus called the "water and powder infusion" method.
On this round fan, entitled "A Bouquet Freshly Gathered", a freshly gathered bouquet is depicted. Wrapped in a lotus leaf are all perfumed flowers such as malva, fragrant plantain lily, tiger lily, and coco magnolia. Ju Lian's residence in the last years of his life was called "The Garden of Ten Fragrances" which made his life of quiet contentment surrounded by his beloved flowers. This work, painted by him at the age of 69, shows how passionate he was about growing flowers
The painting "Dragon Boat Race" by Ju Lian records the excitement of a regatta at the Lychee Bay in the western part of Guangzhou, or the area of Xiguan and Bantang today. It was done on the day of the Dragon Boat Festival in 1858. Ju Lian and his friends had planned to go to Guangzhou to watch the dragon boat race, but were held up and unable to go. Instead, he painted the rousing scene from memory. The four people in white at the crowd on the shore are supposed to be Ju Lian and his friends.
This undated painting, "Insects and Flowers", was created by Ju Chao. More than 30 years after Ju Chao passed away in 1898, his young cousin Ju Lian happened to see this painting in a friend's home. By invitation, he gladly added two butterflies on top. Being the younger of the two cousins, Ju Lian was also personally coached by Ju Chao. They shared a homogeneous outlook, the same stylistics and composition habit, as well as similar use of colour.