The Chinese have a strong tradition of portrait drawing, and the bookshops are full of large folios of drawings.
These portrait drawings are not only accurate in the academic sense, but soulful and penetrating psychologically. This one by Jin Shangyi from 1977 is a good example. Jin Shangyi is associated with the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.
This portrait by Sumiao Jifa Jiaoxue is from 1971. It is direct and sketchy, but precisely observed, with a lot of knowledge behind it.
This one, from 1993, shows a method practiced by many of the artists, where the image is constructed from tonal patches, made up of lines drawn quickly with the edge of the pencil. The angular construction gives strength and character, even in a feminine subject.
Back in 1991 I met Dafeng Mo and swapped portraits with him. His portrait of me has the same angular "patch" method. He was the son of a professor at the central academy, and he himself studied there. In his early career he was obliged to paint propaganda posters before making a career as a print and gallery artist in the USA.
While the West was exploring the various "isms," China under Mao was unswerving in pursuing traditional drawing. The drawing above is from 1960, from a book on the Guangzhuo Academy of Fine Arts, one of several academies still in operation. The training was solid, and these artists were and are extremely competent.
Part of the reason for this competence is that when China was closed to the West, it turned to Russia for its training. Following in the tradition of the great Russian portrait masters Repin, Kramskoy, Fechin, and Serov, the portrait tradition emphasized sincerity, something that is often missing in western portraits.
16 Comments on Part 8: Shanghai Diary -- Chinese / Russian Drawing, last added: 4/9/2012