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

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Title: Ink Landscape
Date: 1927
Medium: Hanging scroll: ink on paper
Dimensions: Overall: 37 1/4 x 17 1/2 inches (94.6 x 44.5 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Frederick Baekeland
Object Number: 2000.136.003
Label Text: Liu Haisu was a founder of the Shanghai Art College and a pioneering practitioner in the field of modern art during the early twentieth century. Most of his existing early works are oil paintings that explore postimpressionistic styles, a pursuit common among young Chinese painters in Shanghai during the 1920s and ’30s.

The Johnson Museum’s painting is one of the few remaining examples of Liu’s early ink paintings. In the background the mountains are painted using a mogu technique in which forms are made by ink washes rather than by outlines. In the foreground two or three withered trees with bare branches solemnly stand alone, while in the middle ground there is a figure in profile rendered with spontaneous and simplified brushstrokes. The pictorial language illustrates Liu’s early efforts at combining Chinese and Western styles in his practice, in particular the emphasis on expressiveness rather than representativeness.

In addition, a long inscription written by Liu with bold and loose brushstrokes shows a calligraphic style influenced by his teacher Kang Youwei (1858–1927), whose calligraphy is also on view in this exhibition. The inscription tells us that the painting was requested by a friend of Liu, who looked after him during his short stay in a hospital in the spring of 1927. The event was not recorded in Liu’s personal chronicle published in 1992, so the painting provides us with a greater understanding of this particular year of Liu’s life. ("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)

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.