Chinese peasant painting, as an art genre, first emerged in the 1950s and took shape in the 1970s. After decades of development, it demonstrates strong momentum as quite a few counties are titled “Painting Villages” nationwide. The famed folk painting centers are Huxian and Ansai Counties of Shaanxi province, Pizhou and Liuhe of Jiangsu province and Jinshan District of Shanghai etc.
Jinshan Peasant Paintings
Jinshan Peasant Paintings are created by Chinese peasants working in Jinshan County near Shanghai, China. During the late 1970s, the Chinese painter Wu Tongzhang began teaching painting techniques to the peasants in Jinshan. Most of these first painters were older women skilled in various folk arts that had been passed down through generations. These traditional folk arts, such as embroidery, paper cutting, paper folding, and weaving, heavily influenced the style of painting that developed.
The subjects of these paintings are mostly rural scenery or snapshots of life. Each peasant painting seems to be telling a touching and interesting story. It is also an embodiment of the creator’s love for their hometown and life.
Jinshan Peasant Paintings are both natural and unnatural. They are natural, for they show a love of ordinary life, love of children, love of festivals, love of animals, and love of work and chores. But they are also unnatural, in that these ordinary life-events are shown according to the painters’ imaginations. The painters use a wide range of bright colors – colors that are often unnatural – and spread them throughout the paintings. Spatial reality and perspective are unimportant in these paintings. Figures and objects are usually drawn in a way that looks childlike. Taken together, these elements give the paintings a charming, primitive style.
Huxian Peasant Paintings
Huxian County lies to the southwest of Xi’an in Shaanxi Province. The peasant paintings in this area are closely connected with local operas, dances, dragon lanterns and other forms of folk arts. The paintings have a strong regional flavor and idyllic style. Featuring the beautiful rural scenery of Huxian County, these paintings are well arranged with simple design and strongly contrasted colors, ideal for decoration.
The style is said to have originated in the late 1950s when Hu County peasants who were building a new reservoir began painting pictures of the work in progress in order to record the work and to inspire themselves to work better. These first peasant painters did not even have proper paints, but used soot, lime, and the red soil of the area to paint. The County Communist Party Committee organized art classes so that professionals could teach these peasants how to paint. Huxian peasants continued to paint, and during China’s Cultural Revolution ( 1966 -1976 CE) their work was shown abroad to prove to the outside world that common, ordinary workers could produce works of art. Today, Huxian Peasant Paintings still show the ordinary aspects of people’s lives. Festivals, parades, the harvest, music, village traditions, farm animals, winter, kitchen work, and children are all celebrated in these paintings.
Liuhe Peasant Paintings
The paintings featuring folk customs created with rich imagination by peasants in Liuhe County of Nanjing are brightly-colored, rustic and natural.
Pizhou Peasant Paintings
Pizhou is a place widely known as “the Home of Peasant Paintings” and the peasant paintings here have a long history. In former times, on the Day of Beginning of Spring, it was a tradition for local to paint oxen, horses, donkeys and other domestic animals and farming tools on the wall with red clay. In the early 1950s, local peasants began to capture life on paper with great enthusiasm. Their paintings are natural, vivid and touching. Most paintings are in praise of life and expressing good wishes.
by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com
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