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Friendship in Art

Fou Lei and Huang Binhong

Claire Roberts

Publication Year: 2010

This book documents in letters, photos, and paintings a special friendship between two highly creative individuals who helped shape Chinese culture in the twentieth century — the revered traditional painter Huang Binhong (1865–1955) and the young, cosmopolitan critic and translator Fou Lei (1908–66). As one of China's oldest and most distinguished artists in the 1940s and 1950s, Huang Binhong was committed to artistic continuity and reinvigoration of brush-and-ink painting. Fou Lei was a child of the New Culture Movement which repudiated many literati traditions, but reached out to Huang Binhong to discuss the possibilities for contemporary Chinese art amid the tides of war and Communist dictates of socialist realism as the guiding priority for cultural workers. Both were cultural mediators and translators of ideas and cultural expressions. Both had deep appreciation of the common origins of calligraphy and painting, rendering complex feelings with brush and ink. Their intimate artistic conversations over more than a decade depict their alienation and uncertainty amid China's turbulent cultural politics.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyrigth Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-8

List of Illustrations

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pp. viii-x

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pp. xi-xiii

A conversation with my colleagues Geremie R. Barmé, Australian Research Council Federation Fellow and professor of Chinese history at the Australian National University (ANU), and John Minford, professor and head of the Faculty of Asian Studies’ China and Korea Centre at ANU, prompted me to embark on a...

A Note on Romanization and Translation

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pp. xv-17

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pp. 1-9

This book charts a friendship between two creative individuals who played important and yet very different roles in the evolution of Chinese culture in the twentieth century. In 1943, Fou Lei, a young Shanghainese intellectual, wrote to the 80-year-old artist Huang Binhong, a man more than 40 years his senior...

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1 - Fou Lei: Shanghai and Paris

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pp. 11-25

Prior to the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), Fou Lei was best known in China as one of the greatest translators of French literature. In the minds of readers, his name was synonymous with Romain Rolland and Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850), whose novels he rendered into vivid Chinese. Today, he is better known for the letters...

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2 - On Art: Fou Lei’s Early Writings

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pp. 27-47

Writer and intellectual Qian Zhongshu (1910–98), who studied French literature in Paris in the late 1930s, remembers that on his calling card his old friend Fou Lei described himself as Critique d’Art.1 In Paris, Fou Lei had developed his affinity with art and on his return to Shanghai he energetically took up...

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3 - Huang Binhong and Fou Lei

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pp. 49-73

Fou Lei and Huang Binhong were prolific correspondents and communicated with many different people. Of the letters published in Fou Lei’s collected writings in 2006, with the exception of family (more than 200), by far the greatest number are addressed to Huang Binhong (101)—many more than to his close friends...

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4 - Huang Binhong’s First Solo Show Curated by Fou Lei

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pp. 75-99

Huang Binhong’s first solo exhibition was held more than 60 years ago in Shanghai, in 1943. It was organized by friends and students to honour his eightieth birthday. Huang had been offered a commemorative exhibition by Japanese authorities in Beiping but declined. The Shanghai exhibition, developed...

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5 - Artistic Conversations

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pp. 101-133

Of the 200 paintings included in Huang Binhong’s eightieth birthday exhibition, 20 were selected by Fou Lei for reproduction in the accompanying catalogue. He must have regarded them as fine examples of Huang’s art, and it is not surprising that some found their way into his personal collection. One of these paintings...

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6 - Politics and Culture: China in the 1950s

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pp. 135-157

While some of his friends and associates would flee to Taiwan and Hong Kong as a result of the Communist victory, Huang Binhong chose to remain in China. After a short stay in Shanghai, he moved to Hangzhou where he was appointed professor at the National Art College. The next year, however, he created...

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7 - Huang Binhong: The Artistic Legacy

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pp. 159-193

Early in 1955, Fou Lei was part-way through the translation of Balzac’s novel Ursule Mirouët when he heard that Huang Binhong was gravely ill. He immediately wrote to Huang’s wife, Song Ruoying, to express his concern, but the letter arrived too late. After receiving news of Huang’s death, Fou...

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8 - Friendship in Art: Fou Lei and Huang Binhong

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pp. 195-202

Soon after his return from Paris in 1931, Fou Lei saw some of Huang’s brushand- ink landscapes and never forgot them. He had viewed many Chinese and Western works, but Huang’s art was fresh and exciting to him. While he admitted that his love affair with Chinese painting began after his...


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pp. 203-211

Glossary of Chinese Names and Terms

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pp. 213-218


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pp. 219-225


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pp. 227-232

E-ISBN-13: 9789882205765
Print-ISBN-13: 9789888028405

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 60 colour illus
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 707091228
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Friendship in Art

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Subject Headings

  • Politics and culture -- China -- History -- 20th century.
  • Fu, Lei, 1908-1966.
  • Huang, Binhong, 1865-1955.
  • China -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
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