Chen Danqing

China 1953

Realism, Contemporary Realism

Chen Danqing
Chen Danqing
October 29, 2014

Chen Danqing was born in 1953, in Shanghai. He is a well-known Chinese oil painter, who made his name in the 1980s, with his seven paintings of Tibetans. These paintings were made with the idea to remind of French Realist artist, Jean-Francois Millet. Along with his other early paintings of Tibet, these are seen as milestones in China’s art history.

Since grade school Chen wanted to be a painter. In fact, in Chinese, is an artistic term, Danqing even means, vermilion and cyan. It generally refers to painting, for the two colors commonly used in Chinese art. So it could be said that even his name destined him to be a painter. In his early age, when he was 14 that is, he was provided a chance to do oil paintings, because at that time Chairman Mao’s face was in high demand, and one of his first encounters with painting was painting his face. Like many young people, he was also sent to serve on the countryside of Jiangxi Province for five years. This was when he was at the age of sixteen. Despite his work in the countryside, his free time he used to paint. Chen has seen and experienced first-hand the Cultural Revolution. He took his opportunity when art freed itself from Mao’s propaganda. Despite the influence Russian Realism painters had on Chinese painters, Chen was more turned to European artists. When Chen was only a middle-school graduate, in 1978, he was admitted to the master’s program at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts, that was the only art academy directly under the Ministry of Education.

In 1974, Chen showed two of his works, On the Frontier, and Spring Snow. In 1976, he traveled to Tibet, the place which was his greatest inspiration, and there he won two prizes, for his oil paintings. One of his most famous paintings is the Tibet-Sheepherder, in which he captured everyday life of Tibetans. He painted this one when he was in his late 20s. The painting represents a moment where a sheepherder kisses a woman. Because of the Cultural Revolution, that enclosed the country, shielding it even from an everyday reality, this painting was quite shocking for public. This painting is a type of landscape painting with two people as the subject matter. Colors on the painting are earthy, and there is not much brightness on the two people that are wearing traditional Tibetan outfits. Their skin is dark from the out-door lifestyle. The desert landscape in the back suggests a very rustic lifestyle. In 1982, Chen moved to the U.S. He settled in New York where he lived for almost 20 years. In the first time, for the five or six years, life for Chen was difficult, during which he became depressed. In New York he stopped painting Tibet, because he couldn’t find inspiration of this kind, in the city lifestyle. He later signed up with a local art gallery in New York, where he met many contemporary Chinese artists. Chen eventually decided to return to China to teach what he had learned in the west. Offer he received from Tsinghua University, which was one of the China’s top education institutions, he accepted in 2000. There he became a Doctoral advisor at the school’s Academy of Arts and Design. He handpicked five students from a large number of candidates, to be admitted for his studies. He taught them painting, but because of the final exam in English, that they all failed, they weren’t able to graduate. Because of this, Chen started with his ruthless attacks on art education in China. He stated that this method of selecting students is meaningless. This was also the reason Chen quitted the University, in 2005, because in the following years he hasn’t been able to find any students that satisfy both of this criteria, knowledge of English, and his artistic ideas.

Chen has always been known as a gifted painter, and public figure. Just as Weng Yunpeng, one of Chen’s first five students, said, “Danqing has never been just a painter. He is an intellectual with a social conscience.”  Chen dedicated most of his time writing books on politics, literature, painting and art education, after leaving Tsinghua University.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2010ChenDanQing Print ExhibitionMiki International Art, BeijingSolo
2010ChenDanQing, Returned YearsChinese Painting Academy, BeijingSolo
2000ChenDanQing 1968-1999 Sketch Painting ExhibitionBeijing, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Shenyang, Nanjing, ShanghaiSolo
1998ChenDanQing ExhibitionHong Kong University of Science and Arts Center, Hong KongSolo
1995ChenDanQing Oil Painting ExhibitionSun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, LondonSolo
2013Group Jane meta, National Ten Art Collection ExhibitionArt Museum of China, BeijingGroup
201355th Venice Biennale, parallel exhibition" Heart Beat "Venice, ItalyGroup
2012Visual memoryShanghai Art Museum, ShanghaiGroup
2012Four decades story, Time Friendship ArtShanghai, NanchangGroup
2012Integrate, TuoXin - Returned Overseas Artists Painting ExhibitionBeijing World Art Museum, BeijingGroup
2011Love and Hope - Support Japan affected childrenIberia Center for Contemporary Art, BeijingGroup
2011Original song 2011 Summer ExhibitionOriginal song Gallery, ShanghaiGroup
2010Khe Qingyuan, Chinese New PaintingLouise Blouin Foundation, LondonGroup
2010Thirty Years of Chinese Contemporary Art History, Painting articlesMinsheng Art Museum • ShanghaiGroup
2010Reshaping History, New Chinese Art 2000-2009National Convention Center, BeijingGroup
2010Spirit and HistoryNational Touring ExhibitionGroup
20102010 Offshore Oil Painting, Sculpture Exhibition of FamousMuseum of Contemporary Art, ShanghaiGroup
2010Track and qualitative, Beijing Film Academy 60th Anniversary ExhibitionSpace Art Museum, BeijingGroup
2010Youth Narrative, youth painting ExhibitionShanghai Art Museum, ShanghaiGroup
2009Very status, Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition of twelve mastersWall Art Museum, BeijingGroup
2009Chinese Painting Exhibition of artists of the twentieth centuryChina National Grand Theater, BeijingGroup
2008Art and China's RevolutionAsia Society, New York, U.S. Group
2008Doran five years, Chinese Contemporary Art RetrospectiveShanghai Duolun Museum of Modern ArtGroup
2004Feel, MemoryYibo Gallery, ShanghaiGroup
2004Century Spirit, Chinese Contemporary Art MastersChina Millennium Monument Art Museum, BeijingGroup
2003The original image II, Contemporary Works on Paper ExhibitionYibo Gallery, ShanghaiGroup
2003Art and WarGraz Art Museum in Graz, AustriaGroup
2002China dialogue of contemporary German art exhibitionModern Art, GermanyGroup
2001Twentieth Century Neoclassical RetrospectiveWu Sideng Museum of Modern Art, BelgiumGroup
1998China five thousand years of civilization Art ExhibitionColumbia, Guggenheim, Museum of Modern Art, New YorkGroup
1987Group ExhibitionLos Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Ana. U.S.Group
1982People's Republic of China Art ExhibitionSpring Salon in Paris, FranceGroup
1982Chinese Contemporary Art ExhibitionManhattan, New YorkGroup
1980Tibet group paintingCAFA Art Museum, BeijingGroup
1977March into TibetChina Art Museum, BeijingGroup
1977Tears shaman harvest fieldChina Art Museum, BeijingGroup