28 Dec 2017

Repentant Monk: Illusion and Disillusion in the Art of Chen Hongshou

UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

Reviewed by John Rapko

The late-Ming painter Chen Hongshou (1598-1652) lived to see and regret the barbarian Qing dynasty, founded by the Manchus in 1644. Chen's subsequent withdrawal from professional life and becoming the "Repentant Monk" is given perhaps its fullest exhibition ever in the Berkeley Art Museum's gathering of Chen's work from museums and collections from New York City to Shanghai.

Two rooms of paintings, albums, and sets of illustrated playing cards highlight a steady hand laying down continuous outlines. There's a curious hardness to these contours, as if Chen is not so much delineating a figure as protecting it from an external threat. Gowns are exoskeletons. An Elegant Gathering is his testament: figures gathered in front of a boozy-faced icon. The crooked nose of a figure on the right merges into the hatchet strokes of a distant rock, while a partially occluded, more distant figure seems to float forward over the nearer one's back. Regret is in the details.

Exhibition Repentant Monk: Illusion and Disillusion in the Art of Chen Hongshou link
Start date 25 Oct 2017
End date 28 Jan 2018
Presenter UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive link
Venue 2155 Center Street, Berkeley, CA, USA map
Image Chen Hongshou, image from Album for Monk Yu, 1650, album, ink and color on paper, 10 x 11 ⅝ inches, Honolulu Museum of Art, purchase, 1966, courtesy of the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
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