Liu Haisu (1896-1994) is probably one of the most controversial artists in modern Chinese art history.
On the one hand, he is believed by many to be the founder of the first art academy in China with a Western-style curriculum.
Many also believe he was the first Chinese art educator to employ the nude in painting classes.
Still others view him to be a man of great courage and moral integrity who refused to co-operate with Japanese invaders in the 1940s when the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression was waged across China.
However, 12 years after his death, many Chinese artists and critics are still divided over and questioning the details in his art and his personal history.
"History has its own logic. I believe each of the great figures will receive their final, fair judgment some day in the future," said Zhang Peicheng, curator of the Shanghai-based Liu Haisu Art Museum, during last week's press conference for the art exhibition commemorating the 110th anniversary of Liu's birth.
"At present, why shouldn't we focus on the bare facts we have already known about and see what we can learn from the veteran artist?"
The exhibition opened this Monday at the National Art Museum of China in downtown Beijing and runs until March 17.
Jointly organized by the National Art Museum of China and Liu Haisu Art Museum, the exhibition features 95 of Liu's selected works, including 54 oils and 41 Chinese ink paintings.
Also on show are some of Liu's letters, manuscripts, and old photos depicting Liu's early years in Shanghai, his journeys to Europe in 1929, 1931, 1933, and 1989, and his 10 trips to the picturesque Mount Huangshan in east China's Anhui Province in the early 1980s.
Coinciding with the exhibition, an academic seminar on Liu's art will be held on March 16 at the Yanhuang Art Museum in northern Beijing. All the exhibits on display in Beijing are from the Liu Haisu Art Museum, which is widely believed to have housed the largest collection of Liu's works and his private collection of many ancient Chinese ink masterpieces he donated to the government in 1994.
Liu staged his first art show in Beijing at the same museum in 1979.
"This time, with quite a few exhibits for the first time ever greeting the public and art circles alike, the exhibition will offer Beijing viewers a most comprehensive account of Liu's art and life," said Fan Di'an, director of National Art Museum of China.
The highlighted works include Liu's signature oil work entitled The Qianmen Gate, which was shown in Paris in 1929 and won sweeping critical acclaim, and a 1930 oil painting entitled Madame L which, with unstrained strokes and patches of colours, portrays a young lady in traditional Chinese clothes. In addition, it also features Liu's five other earlier works that were lightly damaged and have been repaired only recently by researchers from the Liu Haisu Art Museum and some experts from the Shanghai Research Institute of Oil and Sculpture Art.
(China Daily March 9, 2006)