1900 - 1986
Born in Guangdong Province in 1900, Guan Liang was the first generation Chinese Modern art pioneer. He studied Art in Tokyo from 1917 to 1922 where he was introduced to western oil painting technique. While receiving the basic realistic sketch training in school, he was also devoted in Impressionism and Post-impressionism art. Works by Monet, Renoir,Cézanne, Matisse had left him a deep impressionand the works by Van Gogh and Gauguin had become the model he worshiped and studied. From then onwards, Guan Liang was determined to pursue the vitality in art, art must surpass the beauty of stillness, art had to be rich in meaning.
Guan Liang’s paintings can be classified into oil paintings, water color paintings, sketches, and Chinese ink paintings. The former incorporated diversified themes while the latter mainly based on Chinese opera characters. Guan’s oil paintings were mostly painted freely unlike the works of artists in the same generation which seemed rigid and tedious. In landscape paintings, Guan was good at simplify the enormous space, complex color relationship and structure to bring about the landscape’s momentum. His figures were often small and crude, but with a high spirit that served to enlighten the landscape. The advent of Guan’s Chinese ink opera figures paintings was a new page for the Chinese art history in the 20th century. His interest and cultivation in Chinese opera not only served as a motivation for his art creation, but was also the concept of his painting. For Guan Liang, those legendry figures were not the main subject of his painting, instead, what he depicted were the characters and scenes he had seen on stage. Guan had a special intimate relationship with Chinese opera. While he drew the performance of characters, he was also drawing his emotions and understandings of this particular scene, this particular episode. Just like Xu-Hong said: “His Chinese ink opera figures paintings attempted to transform the long-term fixed format of Chinese ink paintings. He synthesized the folklore interest with the lyricism of Chinese ink painting. He had thus used the rich stage performance format to expand the expression of Chinese ink, Guan had left the 20th century Chinese art a heritage of free and child-like water ink expression.”
Guan Liang—A Wanderer in the Art Realm, Shui Zhong-Tien