AAH 194: Visual Culture in Communist China

Union College, Spring 2022

Author: Camilo Mosquera Ferry

Preserving style and improving technique: the art of realism.

Realism has long been associated with Jiang Zhaohe and is arguably the most salient characteristic of his work, Jiang Zhaohe is regarded as one of the most important influences in developing figure painting in Beijing (Andrews).

The reason it is important to emphasize Jiang’s stylistic features of his art is because it represents a broader shift of Art in China, art during the 1940 was politically charged and often a point of contention (Migration World Magazine). Focusing on the stylistic feature allow us to also consider the accuracy and skill Jiang possessed in capturing realism. This is significant as he was far ahead of his time with the implementation of ink and brush to capture realism in regards to figure painting.  The preservation of traditional stylist technique was influenced by Xu Beihong, as Jiang learned under him. (Xiaosheng). This would be significant as it allowed Jiang to position himself as one of the pioneers in figure painting.

This exhibition I wish to focus on the stylistic technique of ink and brush implemented by Jiang to capture realism. The improvement of this stylist technique also reflects a political shift in the importance of raising standards and style in works of art in China. art as it exemplifies the preservation of Chinese ink and brush style yet at the same time is the product arising from the need to modernize art and raise its standards.

Work of Jiang Zhaohe from a Czech Private Collection

Jiang Zhaohe (1904 – 1986)

Old Man 1940



Sun, Xiaosheng. “Jiang Zhaohe, Portraying the Lives of Working People 2016-08-03 16:29:27   Source£ºbeijing   .” charmingBeijing. Accessed April 28, 2022. http://www.charmingbeijing.com/eng/index.php?m=content&c=index&a=show&catid=183&id=965.

Sullivan, Michael. “Art in China since 1949.” The China Quarterly, no. 159 (1999): 712–22.       http://www.jstor.org/stable/655764.


Old Man 1939


The painting, Old Man 1939 by Jiang Zhaohe 蒋兆和 (1904-1986). hanging scroll ink and color on paper. (66 X 45.5 cm. 926 x 17 7/8 in.)
In this painting we see the emphasis on realism. Old Man is extremely vivid in detail, perhaps best encompassing the ability of Jiang Zhaohe to artistically capture human faces well. The use of traditional ink and brush material combined with the more modern portrayal of a human face make this pieces remarkable. The precision of the shading, wrinkles and fine lines that underscore the Realistic them seen in the Old Man reflect Jiang Zhaohe’s art education. Jiang Zhaohe had an extensive art background, being a professor of sketching at Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, from 1930-1932 and also showing particular interest for western style painting early (inf.news). It’s perhaps within the integration of Zhaohe‘s interest that led to the culmination of his beautiful portraits. The synergy of western influence combined with masterful traditional tools allow this piece to have a lot of Chinese essence while being aesthetically pleasing.

Artistically the composition of this art is beautiful. The most notable aspect of this painting is the contacts between the body and the face. Although the human body is captured masterfully and proportionately, it lacks details past superficial strokes that portray minimal detail. What this allows is for the focal point to instead lie within the shaded, realistic face. The shading allows for the old man’s face to display emotion, perhaps the most important reason for this contrasting technique. We can see the expression of pensive or sadness. There seems to be a grading effect, the detail fades drastically as one moves their eyes away from the face. Placing this work in context amongst Zhaohes other works reveals the patriotic themes often portrayed in his works, most notable of these was Refugees (Andrews, kuiyi: 128). The choice to emphasize a face of a Chinese’s details the portrayals of emotions.



Andrews, Kuiyi: The art of Modern China, 2012. University of California Press.


蒋兆和 Jiang ZhaoHe

Jiang ZhaoHe (1904-1986) was born in Luzhou, in Sichuan province. Heavily influenced by western art and style, ZhaoHe’s education was thorough. Having studied under Xu BeiHong and Qi BaiShi, ZhaoHe positioned himself to master not only traditional painting but also other forms of art, even venturing into sculpting.

JiangZhaoHe’s work often reflects his passion in current political transgressions. ZhaoHe lost his job as a result of his participation in waging anti-Japanese propaganda in 1932, he went on to mount his first solo exhibition in 1937. ZhaoHe went on to enjoy a  sucessful career. Becoming a teacher at the National Beijing Art School in 1947 and later In 1950, becoming a professor at the Central Art Academy.






Hey! I am Camilo, I am a Psychology and Chinese ID junior. I love traveling to China! I want to work in an international setting, I have an interest in language learning and I plan on integrating both of these aspects into a successful career in business/consulting . I think art is often overlooked when considering powerful influences for our past. I am interested in this course because I want to gain more background knowledge on Chinas culture and also be able to asses art under a more analytical lens. In doing this I hope to be more knowledgeable about the country and its portrayal of communism. My Chinese name is 慕容轩

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