The Conventional and the Individual in Fu Baoshi’s (1904-1965) Painting

Siu, Fun Kee 蕭芬琪
Supervisor: Prof. Q.L. Wan

Fu Baoshi (Fu Ruilin 傅瑞麟, alias Baoshi 抱石, hao Baoshizhai Zhuren 抱石齋主人) was a well-known and influential artist who possessed triple identities as a scholar, painter and seal engraver. The purpose of this thesis is to comprehensively examine and analyze the available materials regarding Fu and study in detail his existent work in order to sort out his artistic achievements and contributions to contemporary Chinese art history.

The thesis begins with a literature review in Chapter One, which saw Fu enjoy a remarkable reputation during his lifetime and his artistic talents were greatly valued. It continues in Chapter Two, a discussion of the stylistic development of Fu’s landscape painting alongside with his scholarly pursuit of Chinese painting history. There were four stages in development: the initial stage (1904-1939), the high-spirited advancing period (1939-1946), the mature stage (1946-1957) and a stage of scaling new heights (1957-1965). Enlightened by Shitao’s theory and work, Fu advanced at every stage by earning from practice and nature, and successfully captured the essence of the landscape. He accomplished a textural painting technique of ‘Baoshi Cun 抱石皴’ which brought a breakthrough to the restraints on traditional painting brushwork.

Fu’s pursuit of antiquity in figure paintings is examined in Chapter Three. These paintings are always related to Chinese literature and history. The representation of poets, such as Qu Yuan, Tao Yuanming, Shitao, Du Fu and Li Bai, shows the intellectuals’ consciousness of suffering. Apart from his remarkable reflection of poems, Fu was fond of illustrating ancient stories and through some of them, he satirized the ills of the times and expressed his discontent. His figure painting is distinguished by the professional use of line, which benefited from his study of line, the influence of Gu Kaizhi and Fu’s seal engraving. It follows by a discussion on the periodical styles in terms of variant of brushwork, eye expressions, modeling of figure and application of colors.

The focus then shifts to Fu’s paintings on Mao Zedong’s poems in Chapter Four. Following a brief account of Mao’s theory on art, Fu’s primary motives for creating this category of paintings were his antipathy to the Nationalist Party, his expectations from the Communist Party, the influence of Guo Moruo and the charm of Mao’s poems. The discussion concludes that with his innovative expression and rich imagination, the paintings have advanced Mao’s original poems and achieved a lofty ideal. Finally, brief survey on Fu’s seal engraving in Chapter Five is devoted to explore his superlative craftsmanship in carving skill and his attainment of individuality beyond antiquity, with his upright and patriotic personality embodied in the content and style of the seals.

Furthermore, the ‘Chronological Biography of Fu Baoshi’, ‘List of Seals’ and ‘Distribution of Collection of Fu Baoshi’s Paintings’ are attached to the thesis.