2010: Wang Zhen (1867-1938)

Huaisu writing on a banana leaf

Ink and colors on paper | H. 130 cm; L. 33,2 cm | Signed and dated 1922
MC 2010-3. Gift of the Society of Friends of the Cernuschi Museum

A wise businessman, Wang Zhen was also a prolific painter. A student of Ren Bonian (1840-1896) and Wu Changshuo (1844-1927), he is best known for his character paintings, especially for his religious figures. This representation of Huaisu, monk of Buddhism chan and famous calligrapher, fits in an ancient tradition. The biography of Huaisu by Tao Gu (903-970) reports that the monk had planted banana trees around his hermitage, and that he used their leaves for his calligraphy. This anecdote would become a pictorial theme in its own right, particularly dear to Ren Bonian. Wang Zhen's painting is characterized by its energetic feature common to the foreground bank and the bamboos in the background. Contrasting with this line whose strength borrows from the gesture of the calligrapher, the face of the monk is treated in the art can, without bones, and the details of the eyes and the beard are taken again with a light brush.

Two luohans in the mountains

Ink and colors on paper | H. 135,5 cm; L. 32,3 cm | Signed and dated 1924
MC 2010-4. Gift of the Society of Friends of the Cernuschi Museum

Entrepreneur, lay Buddhist (jushi) and politician, Wang Zhen was the head of many charitable and religious associations in Shanghai. This fervent commitment in Buddhism is perceptible in the choice of painting subjects, gladly drawn from the iconography of Buddhism chan. Here, two characters, maybe Luohans or the monks Hanshan and Shide, stand in the middle of steep rocks. They are depicted with a powerful stroke and bold colors, inherited from Wu Changshuo (1844-1927) and Ren Bonian (1840-1896).

The donation to the museum of these two works has filled an important gap in the institution's collections. With many works from the period of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), it did indeed hold few works of the 1920 years and had no representative work of the Shanghai School in its funds.

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