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Photo credit: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

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Title: Lotus
Date: 1941
Medium: Hanging scroll: ink on paper
Dimensions: 53 3/8 x 13 1/4 in. (135.6 x 33.7 cm)
Credit Line: Bequest of Professor Lee C. Lee
Object Number: 2006.041.001
Label Text: In early-twentieth century debates about how to modernize Chinese art, Pan Tianshou was an unyielding proponent of traditional ink painting. He believed that Chinese and Western art had divergent values, and each should maintain its own uniqueness and originality. Pan Tianshou was a native of Zhejiang province who taught himself to paint by studying the popular seventeenth-century Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting. In 1923 he went to Shanghai and worked in the Shanghai Art College. There he met Wu Changshuo (1844–1927), a leading painter during the early twentieth century, who was noted for rejuvenating the art of painting flowers and birds by transferring calligraphic brushstrokes into painting.Pan aimed to bring elements of vigor and surprise to traditional subjects such as lotus, thus furthering the approach of his teacher Wu Changshuo (1844-1927).

This painting assimilates Wu’s style of painting and calligraphy, and fully demonstrates the ideology and taste of the literati painting style. As a “traditionalist,” Pan opposed the New Culture Movement of the 1930s, and his paintings successfully argue the case that Chinese tradition itself offers a rich resource for developing the modern Chinese style. Pan’s career spanned one of the most turbulent eras in Chinese history, and during the Cultural Revolution he was singled out for attack and ruthlessly persecuted as an artistic leader of his time, which sadly led to his demise. ("Debating Art: Chinese Intellectuals at the Crossroads," curated by Yuhua Ding, with assistance by Elizabeth Emrich, and presented at the Johnson Museum February 2-July 8, 2018)

*This text was written by Ellen Avril, chief curator and curator of Asian art




NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.