Past Exhibitions

Chinese paintings

Anat Turbowicz

The Story is in the Scroll: Chinese paintings from the museum collection
Curator: Anat Turbowicz

8/2007 – 12/2007

The exhibition presents a selection of 20 Chinese paintings from the collection of the Wilfrid Israel Museum in Kibbutz Hazorea. The paintings are in the format of hanging scrolls and range from the 16th until the 19th century. The collection in this exhibition is composed of three main groups: landscape paintings, figure paintings, and bird-and-flower paintings. These three themes are typical of traditional Chinese painting, with landscape paintings considered the most faithful representative of the unique nature of classical Chinese painting.
Most paintings in this exhibition were donated by the estate of Simon Nissim, a Jewish businessman who lived in Britain (1889-1968) and in the 1930s made business trips to China, where he purchased the paintings from local traders. He bequeathed his estate to the state of Israel and the collection was turned over to the administrator general. In the early 1970s the collection was given to the Wilfrid Israel Museum at kibbutz Hazorea, at the time the only museum in Israel with an East Asian art collection.
However, two of the best scrolls in the exhibition were donated to the museum by Mr. and Mrs. Earl Morse, whose collection of Chinese art is considered one of the best collections in the USA. One of these paintings is as anonymous landscape painting, but its composition and use of brushwork reveals the work of a master. The other painting is by Wang Zhao, one of the leading artists of the 16th century.
Other notable artists, whose work is in the exhibition, are Wen boren and Wen Jia, who are considered the most accomplished disciples of Wen Zhengming, a leading artist from the 16th century.
Another good painting is by Chen Hongshou (1598-1652), Writing down a wise man’s words in the midst of nature, a famous artist of the 17th century who experienced the transfer of power from the Chinese Ming (1368-1644) to the Manchu Qing dynasty. Being a very talented artist he was offered a job with the Ming imperial studio, but declined it and later refused to take part in the defense of the Ming dynasty and became a Buddhist monk.

One of the most interesting paintings in the exhibition is a painting that is attributed to Gao Qipei (1660-1734), Deer coming down the mountain. Unlike the other paintings in the exhibition which are painted on silk, this one is a finger painting, painted on paper. Gao Qipei was one of a group of eccentric artists, who worked in the city of Biangzhu and stressed their uniqueness and independence. He was known especially for his finger paintings, a technique he and other painters invented and refined.

The hanging scrolls feature paintings or calligraphy in ink on silk or paper in a vertical format. The painting is mounted at the center and surrounded by silk borders, and the scroll’s reverse side is backed with several layers of paper. The hanging scrolls were hung for brief periods on the wall, usually according to the season and otherwise were stored rolled up.
The exhibition gives us a glimpse of Chinese culture in a critical period in Chinese history when the ruling Ming dynasty was ousted by the Manchu Qing dynasty, the last one in China’s imperial history.