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Faces from China’s Past: New Directions in Figure Paintings

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art presents an exhibition on Chinese figure paintings.

September 29, 2019 1:00pm

This exhibition features Chinese figure paintings along with a selection of European prints and miniature portraits. These objects offer insights into commonalities and differences in the conventions of portraiture in distinct cultures. They also reveal how the two artistic groups influenced each other.

For centuries, landscapes were more popular in China than paintings of the human figure. Beginning in the 1500s, contact with Europe helped to revive Chinese figure painting. Thanks to expanded global trade, Chinese artists were exposed to European portraits through prints. Christian missionaries, many of whom were painters, also demonstrated European techniques. These encounters not only introduced new stylistic elements but also promoted portraiture in China. Portraits of Chinese subjects by European artists further illuminate artistic exchange from the 1500s through the 1800s.


Photo and text from The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art