Jia Youfu

b. 1942, Suning, Hebei
Traditional Chinese painter
Jia is famous for cloudy, atmospheric and monumental ‘traditional landscape paintings’ (shanshui). Born to a peasant family and growing up at a time generally hostile to traditional artistic practices, Jia studied with some of Zhongguohua (traditional Chinese painting)’s most important living exponents, beginning with Zhu Lian and Xue Yulu. Admitted to the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1960, he was taught by Li Keran, Ye Qianyu, Li Kuchan and He Haixia. Graduating in 1965, Jia was assigned to teach at the Stage Design Department of the Central Academy of Drama. There he weathered the Cultural Revolution, painting in his spare time. Transferred to the Central Academy in 1977, he subsequently became professor of traditional landscape painting.
Jia Youfu’s oeuvre emerges from a combination of traditional ink-wash aesthetics and personal experience. Mifu Paying Respects to a Rock (Mifu baishi, 1991) is a typical poetic image in traditional style about the Song dynasty calligrapher.
Jia, however, is best known for his monumental paintings of the Taihang mountains, a life-long destination. The fruit of this long relationship are paintings exploring the atmospheric moods of Taihang’s majestic scenery in which the intense light and vast expanses of pouredink clouds dwarf any human presence. In Taihang Mountains: The Great Monument (Taihang fengbei, 1984) the mountains are transmuted into large, coarse and forbidding textured strokes where the sheer faces of the rock are made to symbolize its inhabitants’ rugged spirit of resistance. In other paintings the mountains are textured with finely peppered strokes that surreally metamorphose into tranquil, dormant human figures.
Andrews, Julia F. and Shen, Kuyi (1998). ‘Transformations of Tradition, 1980 to the Present. Chinese Painting in the Post-Mao Era’. In Julia F.Andrews and Shen Kuyi (eds), A Century in Crisis: Tradition and Modernity in the Art of Twentieth-Century China. New York: Guggenheim Museum.
Jia, Youfu (1992). Jia Youfu Zhongguohuaji [The Collected Paintings of Jia Youfu]. Beijing: Jinri Zhongguo chubanshe.
EDUARDO WELSH

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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