VISITORS are reminded of the charm of Ha Ding (1923-2003), a renowned Chinese watercolor master and art educator, in a retrospective exhibition at the China Art Museum through September 16.
Organized by the Shanghai Artists’ Association, China Art Museum and Shanghai Oil Painting & Sculpture Institute, the exhibition features a cluster of paintings created in different periods including his early works in the 1940s. Also showcased are some works created by Ha’s students, such as veteran artists Yu Xiaofu and Wang Jieyin.
“He demonstrated that watercolor can describe major topics and that it was not merely ‘light music’ but a symphony,” said Wu Wenwen, who is on the organizing staff of the exhibition.
Ha’s subjects were diverse, including urban scenes, landscapes, still lifes and portraits. He was among the first Chinese artists to paint watercolors on a large scale, expressing subjects with the richness, weight and power of oil paintings.
Ha became a noted portrait artist in the early 1940s and in the 1950s he wrote influential books, including “How to Draw a Portrait” and “How to Draw with Pencil.”
During the 1950s, Ha also opened “Ha Ding Studio,” which nurtured a group of students who later became the backbone of art education in Shanghai.
But during the “cultural revolution” (1966-1976), like artists everywhere Ha was criticized and forced to a labor camp in the countryside for “re-education.” But Ha didn’t give up his passion, as the torturous experience gave him a deeper understanding toward life and art.
“In the middle of the 1980s, my father began to be engaged in Buddhism for self-cultivating,” said Ha Wen, his daughter. “I think such practice adds harmony and serenity in the works he created.”