Jiang Zhoahe

Jiang Zhoahe 1904 – 1986

Born in Sichuang Province in 1904, Jiang Zhaohe is one of the most famous 20th century painters in China and a contemporary of Xu Beihong and Qi Baishi

He studied with established masters such as Xu Beihong and Qi Baishi and mastered many  different modes of artistic expression, including sculpture.

In the Autumn of 1927 he made acquaintance with Xu Beihong in his friend’s home. During the following years they established a long lasting friendship. In 1928 he was appointed as teacher by Li Yi of the education school of Nanjing Central University to teach design pattern. In 1930 Jiang transferred to Shanghai Art School as the sketch professor. In 1937 he held the display of his latest painting works in Beijing. In 1947 he was appointed as a professor by Xu Beihong in Beiping art school. In 1950, he was appointed as a professor in Central Academy of Fine Art.


“Liu Min Tu” -The Refugees 1943

‘Inspired by Mr. Jiang’s experience during the War of Japanese Invasion, the painting portrays the suffering of over sixty ordinary people during the war. The original piece is about 32m high and 30m long in total and was created in 1941. However, 10 metres of the picture was ruined and the remaining 20metres is now kept in the National Art Museum of China in Beijing.’

Jiang Zhaohe’s huge handscroll Liumin tu (Refugees), painted secretly in occupied Beijing, stands out as a remarkable achievement.

Jaing Zhaohe had had it in mind for a long time to record the suffering of refugees and the poor in an ambitious work, and is said to have lived for a year and a half in the slums of Beijing, Shanghai, and Nanjing before embarking on the Liumin tu. This huge scroll, two meters high and twenty-six meters long, contained over a hundred figures. To avoid attracting attention, he worked on it section by section. Finally completed in the autumn of 1943, the scroll was put on show in the Imperial Ancestral Temple in Taimiao. Within a few hours, Japanese soldiers burst into try to close the exhibition; so truthful a picture of life under the Occupation was offensive to the occupying power. Later that afternoon, orders came from Japanese police headquarters to take the painting down, officially because of the “poor lighting” in the hall.

In the following summer, Jiang Zhaohe took the scroll to Shanghai for an exhibition in the French Concession. A week later, the Japanese “borrowed” it. It then disappeared until 1953, when it was discovered in a warehouse in Shanghai. By that time, the second half of the scroll was lost–destroyed, it was said, by a Japanese officer–and today exists only in photographs. The surviving half was badly damaged.

A Chinese critic has called the Liumin tu China’s Guernica. But here is none of the screaming horror, the pitiless cruelty of Picasso’s work. Suffering and despair, the dying and the dead, are here rendered with a quietness that is far more tragic, because it is more human. It is fortunate that it is the first half that has survived, for it has more variety and movement than the lost section, and the figures seem less posed. Taken as a whole, it is a deeply moving work. Art and Artists of Twentieth-Century China.



Fortunately Jiang Zhoahe took pictures of his masterpiece and a replicated version was painted by his students based on the photos to pay tribute to this virtuoso in the 90th anniversary of Mr.Jiang’ birth in 1994.

Video of Jiang Zhoahe’s life and art.

My Pinterest board of paintings by Jiang Zhoahe.

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