Sketching is a painting method that adopts a single color or simple color tools to depict the outline, volume, structure, space, light, texture and other basic elements of an object. It is the foundation of the learning and creation of painting, and can be considered as an independent artistic expression in its own right. At the beginning of the 20th century, sketching was first introduced to China along with the Western education system of fine arts, which had a profound impact on Chinese art education and artistic aesthetics. The understanding and reconstruction of Chinese artists integrated Chinese cultural connotations into sketch art, forming an artistic style with Chinese characteristics.
The creation of Chinese sketches has always closely followed the development of the times and the destiny of the nation. As early as the beginning of the 20th century, artists with a vision of reviving Chinese art, such as Xu Beihong, Pan Yuliang and Wu Zuoren, went to Europe to systematically study the concepts and skills of Western painting. They laid a solid foundation for the “combination of Chinese and Western styles” in modern Chinese art. In the 1930s and 40s, facing the ever-worsening national crisis, a group of revolutionary realist painters adopted realist creation techniques based on sketches to record the times, and opened up a new realm for the development of Chinese art. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, artists actively implemented the “Double Hundred” policy (let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thoughts contend) and adhered to the “Two For” direction (working for the people and socialism). They borrowed from the Soviet realist art style and created a large number of excellent realist art works expressing the ideal of building a socialist power. Sketch art and traditional Chinese art have become more closely integrated, and national characteristics have become increasingly prominent in Chinese sketch works. Since the reform and opening up, exploration in the field of sketching has become diversified, with innovations in concepts, mediums and forms.
The exhibition Chinese Drawing: Invitational Exhibition of Famous Modern and Contemporary Chinese Artists is jointly held by the National Museum of China and the China Artists Association. This exhibition gathers more than 280 fine sketches created by more than 120 modern and contemporary artists. The exhibition is divided into five sections, systematically presenting the development course of Chinese sketch art and its characteristics reflecting the times. It highlights the exploration and innovation of Chinese artists inheriting Chinese traditions, maintaining their roots in Chinese reality and integrating with Western forms of art.