Mr. Li Ruinian is one of the most important painters and art educators in China in the 20th century and also one of the early Chinese figures to study art aboard. Xu Beihong once commended Li’s style stating that, “Professor Li Ruinian has stayed in Belgium and France for many years, so that his artistic works have been refined and show a composed and elegant style.” In the 1930s and 1940s, Li Ruinian was known for his outstanding landscape paintings. However, for many historical reasons, Li Ruinian’s life and art were rarely researched year after year, so that Li and his art were forgotten by Chinese history in the 20th century. On the afternoon of December 9, 2018, “Everlasting Sincerity of the Heart—Li Ruinian and Art Education” commenced at the CAFA Art Museum. President of CAFA Fan Di’an, Vice President of CAFA Su Xinping, the former President of the Academy of Arts & Design, Tsinghua University, Deputy Director of the National Art Museum of China An Yuanyuan, Dean of College of Fine Arts at Capital Normal University Han Zhengang; and senior professors from CAFA: Sheng Yang, Pan Shixun, Jiang Caiping, Dai Shihe, Chen Weihe, Li Yan, Zhou Yulan, as well as Wu Ning from Wu Zuoren International Foundation of Fine Arts, Professor Sun Dazhi from Beijing Institute of Education, Professor Tian Kesheng from Shenzhen University, Professor Li Zongru from Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, the well-known collector Li Dajun, Shu Yi from Communication University of China, a young teacher from Beijing Normal University and a scholar engaged in the research on Li Ruinian, Ji Haiyang; the son of Mr. Li Ruinian, Professor Li Dun from the Center for Chinese Studies at Tsinghua University, and the daughter of Mr. Li Ruinian, Associate Professor Li Diya from the College of Fine Arts at Capital Normal University attended the opening ceremony.
“Everlasting Sincerity of the Heart—Li Ruinian and Art Education” is the first presentation of Li Ruinian’s works in CAFA Art Museum, and is also the second academic reviewing and offering an in-depth presentation of his life and creation after the “Celebration on the Centenary of the Birth of Li Ruinian and Exhibition of Works Donated by Him” was held by the National Art Museum of China in 2010. “Everlasting Sincerity of the Heart” is an excerpt from the twenty-sixth chapter of the “Doctrine of the Mean”, in which it reads: “Hence to entire sincerity there belongs no ceaselessness. Not ceasing, it continues on. Continuing on, it evidences itself. Evidencing itself, it reaches far. Reaching far, it becomes large and substantial. Large and substantial, it becomes high and brilliant.” Also, “sincerity” is the core spirit that Li Ruinian adhered to, in his artistic life. Based on a unique artistic perspective, it starts from the growth environment, learning background, friends and hobbies, ideas and methods in teaching, to present Li Ruinian and his studies in a three-dimensional way, as well as his artworks, and also his artistic educational thoughts are highlighted, in order to commemorate the master who had taught in the National Beiping Art School and CAFA for many years.
Born in Tianjin in 1910, Li Ruinian later moved to Beiping together with his parents. In 1928, Li was admitted to the Department of Western Painting at College of Arts, Beiping University. After graduated from the college, he went to Belgium and studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, in which he studied sketching with Van Haelen. Then, Li was admitted to École Supérieure Libre d’art de Paris, and studied oil painting in Simon’s studio. In 1937, Li chose to return to China, when the War of Resistance against Japan broke out. Hence Li followed the exiled students on the road to Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuhan and Changsha, going south to Kunming, and then they arrived in Sichuan. During the Chongqing period, Li met his teacher and friend Mr. Xu Beihong, and Li then initiated his creations in oil painting and career of art education. After the founding of People’s Republic of China, Mr. Li Ruinian devoted himself to creating and teaching, and at the same time he began to explore a new style of art. After the end of the ten-year Cultural Revolution, Mr. Li continued to insist on artistic creation and to engage in art education and research. Mr. Li Ruinian passed away at the age of 75 in 1985. But he was neither known by the public, nor researched by scholars. Li had suffered many tribulations throughout his life, but he stood alone and persistently moved forward like the figure in his masterpiece entitled “Rainstorm”.
As President of CAFA Fan Di’an commended in the preface, “In the Chinese art history in the 20th century, Mr. Li Ruinian was an artist who had made outstanding achievements in art creation, especially in the creation of oil painting and art education.” Heavily shocked by the heterogeneous culture in the early 20th century, the painter Li Ruinian studied Western art and incorporated his feelings and his unique national cultural psychology into his works. In the 1940s, he created many amazing works in Chongqing, such as “Rainstorm” (originally named “Struggling”), “The Girl Picking Flowers”, “New Village of Shaping”, and “Two Shores of Jialing River”, etc., which were highly spoken of by other artists. “Rainstorm” which has been considered as his masterpiece, is presented in this exhibition. As an art educator, Li Ruinian devoted his life to art education, and was determined to explore and study teaching methods and theories of art for the undergraduates and graduates. And many well-known artists of Chinese painting and oil painting such as Jin Shangyi, Hou Yimin, Qian Shaowu, Li Hu, Dai Ze, and Wei Qimei, etc., are Li’s students.
Li Ruinian once said, “Recalling the past, all sorts of feelings well up in my mind, but I am not ashamed to say that, for decades I have been unrelentingly exploring the road of art.” Looking back at Mr. Li Ruinian’s life and his experience, Li had suffered a lot and was rarely known after his death. Although his diligence and talent were not fully understood, Li has obtained more achievements in oil painting landscape and art education, more than many other painters of the same generation. Curator of the exhibition, Associate Professor Yu Yang from CAFA said, “Through reminiscing and studying the master of CAFA Li Ruinian, we not only commemorate the important painter and art educator in modern art history, but also commemorate a batch of outstanding painters who have been forgotten over time and also the era showcased hardships and vitality.”
It remains on view till January 3, 2019.
Text by Lin Jiabin, translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO
Photo by Hu Sichen/CAFA ART INFO
Images of works courtesy of the organizer