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Discover the grandeur and mystery of China at the Denver Art Museum this Fall
Xu Beihong, Tian Heng and His Five Hundred Warriors, 1928-1930. Oil on canvas. The Xu Beihong Memorial Museum.

DENVER, CO.- This fall, visitors to the Denver Art Museum will get a rare look inside China’s artistic history through two special exhibitions. Xu Beihong: Pioneer of Modern Chinese Painting and Threads of Heaven: Silken Legacy of China’s Last Dynasty explore this mysterious and ceremonial country during two time periods—the latter years of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912), and the subsequent formation of the Republic of China during the early to middle 20th century.

Xu Beihong offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the full spectrum of work by the 20th century Chinese artist who is widely recognized as the father of modern Chinese painting. One of the first Chinese artists to study in Europe, Xu revolutionized painting in China by drawing influence from both the East and West. This exhibition features 61 works from the Xu Beihong Memorial Museum, the majority of which have never before been on view in the United States.

Threads of Heaven illustrates the court and culture of the Qing Dynasty and the final days of empire in China through more than 100 dazzling pieces ranging from court robes to intricately embroidered accessories to pictorial hangings. The Denver Art Museum is the only venue for both exhibitions, on view October 30, 2011 through January 29, 2012.

"We want DAM visitors to get a special look into one of the world’s most intriguing cultures," said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director. "Both exhibitions reveal a slice of time in China’s history from the tumultuous final decades of the Qing Dynasty, to the birth of modern painting in China through Xu Beihong’s artistic career."

Xu Beihong: Pioneer of Modern Chinese Painting
"Xu Beihong was a revolutionary painter in his day," said Ronald Otsuka, Joseph de Heer Curator of Asian art. "Xu’s work reveals a lot about what was going on in China during his lifetime and reflects the artist’s desire to merge European and Chinese painting traditions."

Xu Beihong: Pioneer of Modern Chinese Painting, organized by the Denver Art Museum, is the first comprehensive exhibition in the United States to focus on his full range of artwork. Xu not only influenced art within his own country, he helped introduce this new style of art to the world. One of the first Chinese artists to study in Europe, Xu advocated for the integration of Western techniques into traditional styles in order to improve Chinese painting. Through his efforts as a prominent artist, educator and reformer, he is credited with revolutionizing the nation’s arts institutions and reshaping international perceptions of Chinese painting. His work was exhibited widely throughout Asia and Europe and his influence is still felt today by many contemporary Chinese artists.

DAM’s landmark exhibition includes 61 works from China’s Xu Beihong Memorial Museum, including ink brush paintings, oil paintings, drawings, pastels and calligraphy. The works, most of which have never before been on view in the United States, trace the full arc of Xu’s career—from early landscape paintings and drawings created during his time in Europe—to portraits of political leaders including Mao Zedong and Mohandas Gandhi to his iconic horse paintings.

Xu Beihong—A Brief Biography
Xu Beihong was born into a poor family on July 19, 1895, in Yixing, Jiangsu Province. He studied Chinese classics, calligraphy, seal engraving and traditional Chinese painting from his father, a selftaught artist and portrait painter.

Xu gained a government scholarship to study in France and attended the Académie Julian and the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. Between 1919 and 1927, he studied sketching and oil painting in France, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland. Returning to China in 1927, he was determined to renew the tradition of learning from nature in traditional Chinese painting and integrating Western techniques. In order to revitalize the Chinese tradition, he was the first to systematically incorporate European sketching and oil painting methodology into the curriculum at major art institutions. From 1927 until his death in 1953, Xu trained students in his new direction, many of whom became accomplished artists and art educators, who continued to influence Chinese painting in modern times.

Threads of Heaven: Silken Legacy of China’s Last Dynasty
"The codified grandeur of court dress as well as the complex imagery on informal dress conveys the cultural richness of the latter years of the Qing Dynasty," said Alice Zrebiec, textile art curator. "I think visitors will be awed by the opulent display of power as well as mesmerized by the extraordinary craftsmanship and intricacy evident in even the smallest details."

Drawn exclusively from the DAM’s collection of Chinese textiles and costumes, the exhibition presents a glimpse into the latter years of the court and culture of the Qing Dynasty and the final days of empire in China. Among the approximately 100 pieces on view are court robes and accessories, many of which denote the wearer’s specific rank. In addition to objects from the museum’s Charlotte Hill Grant collection, acquired by the donor in China during the early 20th century, there are numerous pieces either never before exhibited or not seen for many years. Among these latter objects are an imperial cover lavishly embroidered with golden dragons and phoenixes, a silk hanging with vivid images of the activities of court life and two dramatic opera hangings with embroidered representations of cast members. Black and white archival images illustrating moments at court as well as in the theater put the objects on view into cultural context.

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