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Chinese, French Presidents' Tour for Impressionistic Art

With 51 painting treasures by French impressionists, the China Art Gallery in Beijing Sunday received Chinese President Hu Jintao and French President Jacques Chirac, who came together for this kicking-off celebration of the French Culture Year.

The show gathers masterpieces by masters such as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Edouard Manet, most of which come from the Museum D'Orsay, world-renowned for its modern art collection.

Both President Hu and President Chirac were deeply impressed by the painting works. Standing in front of "The Fifer" by Manet and speaking intimately, they exchanged their opinions on colors and styles of impressionistic genre. Serge Lemoine, president of the Museum D'Orsay, also told them some interesting stories about the painting.

"President Hu is very knowledgeable in impressionistic painting. He asked me why we don't have another two masterpieces on the show, Manet's 'Lunch on the Grass' and Monet's 'Sunrise,'" Lemoine said.

Monet's famous work "The Rue Montorgueil in Paris. Celebration of June 30, 1878" also attracted the two leaders. Bending himself to read the explanation of the painting, Chirac specially invited Hu to notice the countless French national flags in the painting.

Watching carefully at every tiny shed of change of light and shadow in the painting, Hu told Chirac in Chinese people's mind, Monet's paintings embodied the French romantic and innovative spirit. Pleased with Hu's remarks, Chirac expressed his hope the exhibition could attract more and more Chinese people to visit France.

"China and France, nations representing Oriental and Western civilizations, share much in common," said Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, adding the two countries proposed a declaration on dialogues among cultures and civilizations in the fifth Asia-Europe Meeting.

"We both advocate diversification of different cultures, a multilateral world, and a more active United Nations in international affairs," Li said. "We also share consensus on such issues as elimination of poverty and environmental protection."

The two leaders' visit to the painting show highlights the sound development of China-French relations, he added.

Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, French minister of Culture and Communication said it is the biggest impressionist exhibition ever held by France overseas, and President Chirac attached great importance to it.

"The spirit of innovation displayed in impressionist paintings can also be seen in the furthering of bilateral ties," he said.

Chinese Ambassador to France Zhao Jinjun said the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and France set a good example for developing ties between China and other European countries.

Fully agreeing with his Chinese counterpart, French Ambassador to China Philippe Guelluy said the China-France Cultural Year is a pioneer in terms of cultural exchange between the two nations, which provide more opportunities for future cooperation.

Seeing the enthusiasm of Chinese audiences for the show, Bernard Arnault, sponsor of the activity with LVMH Group. Co. Ltd., a top French luxury brand, said business circles of the two countries could find more chances to join hands, and bring more art treasures for the Chinese people.

On a wall specially set up for the show, people extended their warm congratulation to the show, cheering for the friendship between China and France.

"Thanks for China's love for France and impressionistic paintings! See you, Chinese people!" said one Frenchman, who seemed to speak for all those present.
(Xinhua News Agency October 11, 2004)

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