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Artistic Finale to Sino-French Cultural Exchange Programme

The imposing oil painting Bonaparte Crossing the Alps at Grand-Saint-Bernard Pass by French portraitist Jacques-Louis David, Antoine-Francois Dezarrois' chalcographic rendition of Leonardo da Vinci's mysterious Mona Lisa, and soul-stirring streetscapes of Paris over the last century captured by master photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Marc Riboud have been shipped to the National Art Museum of China in downtown Beijing, to the delight of art lovers.

These works amongst many others are being displayed during "Midsummer France-Beijing," a showcase for French art in the Chinese capital that began on Saturday and runs until September 19.

"Like a bright rainbow, the French art series puts a perfect final touch on the 2003-2005 Year of China in France and Year of France in China," said Jean-Pierre Angremy, head of the organizing committee of the Year of France in China.

The Year of China in France ran from October 2003 to July 2004 in Paris while the Year of France in China started in October 2004 and goes until September.

The National Art Museum of China will host eight shows as the finale of the two-year Sino-French cultural exchange project.

Among them are "400 Years: The Chalcography of the Louvre Museum," "Napoleon Paintings & Chalcography from the Palace of Versailles (1800-1804, From Bonaparte to Napoleon)," and "Paris of the Photographers," from the collection of the Pompidou Centre, as well as the "Andre Kneib Art Exhibition," "Hans Hartung Art Exhibition," "San Bartolome Photography Exhibition," and "Christian Lacroix: Dialogues!"

The art shows are co-sponsored by the two countries' ministries of culture and organized by the French Embassy to China and the museum.

Of all the French exhibits, the oil painting Bonaparte Crossing the Alps at Grand-Saint-Bernard Pass by French neoclassical artist Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) has proved to be the most eye-catching for casual visitors and critics alike.

Jacques-Louis David's other well-known pieces include The Sacre or Coronation of the Emperor Napoleon I, Marat Assassinated, or The Death of Marat, and The Oath of the Horatii.

As the only French oil painting on show, Bonaparte Crossing the Alps at Grand-Saint-Bernard Pass, is regarded by Jean-Pierre Angremy as "a masterpiece of historic significance" equal to Chinese artist Liu Chunhua's Chairman Mao Leaves for the City of Anyuan.

The exhibition "400 Years: The Chalcography of the Louvre Museum" is also worth a look.
Open to Chinese art buffs for the first time, the exhibition features 196 splendid chalcographic works selected from a collection of more than 13,000, the oldest dating back to the 16th century, according to Cecile Leon from Paris-based Hexagramm, a co-organizer of the exhibition.

"Napoleon Paintings & Chalcography from the Palace of Versailles (1800-1804, From Bonaparte to Napoleon)" gives visitors a broad view of the glorious moments in the life of Napoleon Bonaparte through the magnificent oil painting and more than 30 chalcographic works.

The exhibition "Paris of the Photographers" is a collection of 165 images shot in Paris by master photographers from around the world over the past century.

The "Andre Kneib Art Exhibition" will introduce Chinese art lovers to works that are fresh yet familiar.

Innovative French artist Kneib created his unique "calligraphic paintings" after being inspired by the traditional Chinese ink art of calligraphy.

With a total of 102 works, the exhibition of the work of Hans Hartung (1904-1989) reveals the gifted artist's ability to create a rich variety of sketches, ink works, prints, acrylics, oils and mixed media pieces.

With 45 poetically composed digital photos, the San Bartolome Photography Exhibition can be read as "rapidly changing Chinese people and life" through the eyes of a French diplomat with a deep understanding of Chinese culture and Chinese society, critics say.

Running from August 28 to September 19, "Christian Lacroix: Dialogues!" juxtaposes 63 sets of fashion masterpieces created by the French designer since 1987 with the latest offerings from about 20 veteran Chinese artists.

The season will be rounded off by the "Lanvin Fashion Night," a 50-minute show featuring a collection by French designer Alber Elbaz to be held in front of the museum on the evening of September 18, coinciding with the Moon Festival of the Chinese lunar year, said Feng Yuan, chief co-ordinator of the French art shows and director of the museum.

Two-year carnival

Over the past two years, at least 200 cultural exchange events have been staged by a host of Chinese and French organizations and institutions in China and France.

Some of the best-known French art shows in China included "The National Collection of Impressionism," with 51 precious paintings from the Musee d' Orsay, which ran from last October to March this year at the National Art Museum of China, and "Louis XIV: the Sun King-Treasures from Chateau de Versailles" which was staged at the Wumen (Meridian Gate) Exhibition Hall of the Palace Museum in central Beijing and ended on July 31.

"The two-year long intercultural carnival, in my view, is unprecedented in scale and genre, and it certainly arouses Chinese and French viewers' strong interests and mutual respect for two of the most renowned cultures and countries in the world," said Li Shaoping, head of the Organizing Committee for The Year of China in France.

 (China Daily August 2, 2005)

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