Xiehanglou - The Pavilion of Marital Harmony

Painting and Calligraphy between Tradition and Modernity

3 mai 2002 - 15 septembre 2002


The Baur Collection takes pleasure in opening on 3 May an exhibition of Chinese art, which will bring together paintings, calligraphy and objects for the scholar’s desk from the 16th to the 20th century. These works of art, bearing the poetic name of "Xiehanglou: the Pavilion of Marital Harmony", were collected in the 1930s by Tsen Tsonming (1896-1939) and his wife Fan Tchunpi (1898-1986), herself a painter of renown.

Tsen Tsonming and Fan Tchunpi went to study in France in 1912, were married there, and returned to China in 1925 to take part in the construction of the newly founded Chinese Republic. Tsen Tsonming, having received his doctorate of letters in France, went on to assume important ministerial posts and became a close associate of Wang Jingwei (1883-1944), the chairman of the Nationalist government. Fan Tchunpi, trained in the French academic tradition at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, passed on the knowledge she had acquired in Europe to the painters in China as, in return, she discovered the Chinese technique of painting with ink and colors on paper. In the course of a long career, she came to achieve a very personal synthesis of the artistic traditions of East and West.

The exhibition "Xiehanglou: the Pavilion of Marital Harmony" comprises four parts. The first part is devoted to the works of Fan Tchunpi. A selection of her oils and Chinese paintings done between the 1920s and 1974 illustrates the variety of themes treated by Fan Tchunpi - landscapes, flowers, and, above all, portraits of exceptional psychological insight. Some twenty modern paintings and works of calligraphy, which form the second part of the exhibition, present a vibrant panorama of the Chinese art of the first half of the 20th century. They also bear witness to the friendship and mutual admiration between Fan Tchunpi and some of her contemporaries, important artists such as Qi Baishi (1864-1957), Xu Beihong (1895-1953) and Zhang Daqian (1899-1983). The collection of classical paintings and calligraphy reflect the unique Chinese taste for a “scholar’s art” that is spare but resonant of poetry. Finally, the exhibition presents a whole series of precious objects ranging from ink stones to seals to jade incense burners to ivory wrist rests, the intimate company of a traditional man of letters.

A catalogue of 160 pages, replete with more than a hundred illustrations - of which 94 are in color - reproduces and provides a commentary on each work in the exhibition. It contains a biography of Tsen Tsonming and Fan Tchunpi as well as a table of chronology, which helps to place this exceptional couple in the historical, artistic and intellectual contexts of China between the fall of the empire and the onset of the new China of Mao Zedong.