The Fralin Museum of Art at U.Va. Links Ancient Masters and Modern Styles in Chinese Ink Painting Exhibition

August 16, 2012

The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia will feature works of Chinese painters spanning more than five centuries in "Ancient Masters in Modern Styles: Chinese Ink Paintings from the 16th-21st Centuries." The exhibition demonstrates a rich variety of Chinese ink painting and the continuing relevance of tradition to Chinese artists today. The exhibition opens Aug. 31 and runs through Dec. 16.

The Chinese art of ink painting is an ancient and continuously practiced tradition transmitted and learned in part through the study of the works of past masters. Until the 20th century, studying the styles of the greatest artists of the past was seen as the fundamental basis for learning the art of painting in China.

"Chinese painters were aware of the potentially limiting aspects of imitating the ancient masters too closely," said Kathleen Ryor, guest curator for the exhibition and a U.Va. alumna who is now a professor of art history and director of Asian studies at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. "As a result, they self-consciously evoked past masters' style while simultaneously transforming and even subverting them."

"Ancient Masters in Modern Styles" includes works from the museum and the Lijin Collection, which focuses on modern and contemporary interpretations of Chinese ink painting. The collection is part of the Lijin Guohua Foundation, formed by J. Sanford Miller, a 1971 graduate of the University, and his wife, Vinie Zhang Miller, to promote the appreciation of traditional Chinese culture in the United States.

The exhibition examines the influence of this long tradition on later artists and how they sought to balance reverence for the art of old masters with their own artistic expression. It will explore this through an investigation of style, subject matter and the inscriptions on paintings from the early modern period until the present, as well as the social and historical context of their production.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog by Ryor. She will give a free Saturday Special Tour on Sept. 1 at 2 p.m.

The museum, located at 155 Rugby Road, is open Tuesdays through Sundays, from noon to 5 p.m.

The exhibition will travel to Carleton College following its Charlottesville showing.

Museum programming is supported by The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation.

The exhibition is made possible through the support of an anonymous donor, and by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, B. Herbert Lee '48 Endowed Fund, Denison and Louise Hatch Americana Preservation Fund, Albemarle Magazine, Ivy Publications LLC's Charlottesville Welcome Book and The Hook. It is co-sponsored by U.Va.'s Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts.