Shi Lu is one of China’s most distinguished 20th-century artists. As a leader of the Xi’an (Chang’an) school of painting, he advocated an approach that honored tradition as well as everyday life, and became an outstanding representative of new Chinese painting. Works painted over a lifetime of artistic endeavor, including Fighting in northern Shaanxi (1959) and the now-lost Eastern crossing (1964), represent major contributions to China’s cultural legacy. Despite the turbulence of his life and the many difficulties he experienced, Shi Lu has left future generations with a precious spiritual heritage. His respect for tradition and commitment to letting his imagination roam free, his inquiring mind, his understanding of the value of both practice and theory, his bravery, his truthfulness to himself, his free spirit, all these qualities mark Shi Lu’s importance in Chinese modern art history. In recent years, his art has attracted the attention of private collectors and international scholars alike – an indication of his emergence as an artist of international significance.

These art works come from the collection of the National Museum of China and the private collection of Shi Lu’s family. Documenting the different stages of Shi Lu’s career, they represent the very best of his artistic output. The exhibition’s major theme is the transformation of Shi Lu’s artistic style; a secondary strand details his fate and its significance in contemporary Chinese art history. The final works are displayed alongside working drafts to illuminate Shi Lu’s artistic process. Also included in the exhibition are the artist’s brushes and tools, video footage of the artist painting, an interview with his wife, a timeline, and photographs. All help reveal Shi Lu’s artistic life to a New Zealand audience in vivid detail.