At Musée Cernuschi, 16 th century monks and scholars enchant our eyes

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Huang Xiangjian (1609-1673) – Journey searching for my parents, not dated, n°3 of 12 leaves album © Hong Kong Museum of Art

If you are tired or just disenchanted by Paris life, go and visit the new exhibition at Musée Cernuschi, the private house of an exceptional collector on Parc Monceau. Called “Peindre hors du monde” (Painting apart from the World) it takes you back to 15 th-18 th century China in the very rich Suzhou area, where artists were most often monks and scholars. They painted on gold paper or silk, and their works are presented as vertical or horizontal scrolls, on fans or albums with miniature drawings. The hundred works presented here until March 6, were collected by Ho lu-kwong (1907-2006), a Chinese real estate magnate from Canton, who started acquiring these old masters since the 1950’s  and gave them all to the Hong Kong Museum of Art under the name “Chih Lo Lou Collection”, meaning the pavilion of perfect felicity.

Tang Yin (1470-1523) The Hermitage with peach tree flowers (détail), non dated © Hong Kong Museum of Art

You don’t have to be an erudite to enjoy the beauty of these ink paintings which have an inner poetry. The most famous painters here are Shen Zhou, Wen Zhengming, Bada Shanren, and Shitao. They were scholars or monks and aspired to living in the forests and the mountains, far from the historical dramas which were taking place at court with the changes of dynasty. The collection dates from the transition period between the Ming and the Qing, when travels and gardens were particularly fashionable. It is the first time it is shown in Europe thanks to the very strong ties between the Cernuschi museum and the Hong Kong museum of Arts.

Lan Ying, Landscape 1650, from Spring to Winter,  ink and colors on paper, Hong Kong Art Museum (part of 12 works)

Calligraphy occupies a whole room of the exhibition and precious albums with tiny paintings can be seen in another with the moving series of “Journey searching for my parents” by Huang Xiangjian. He travelled 6 000 kms by foot from Suzhou to Hunan where they had settled. The most extraordinary room, the third,  shows twelve large vertical paintings on gold paper by Lan Ying, referring to old masters of the past. Each leaf indicates the painter who inspired him and the season. They are beautifully exhibited.

Xiao Yuncong, landscapes, (leaf n°7), 1645 © Hong Kong Museum of art

Most works are in black and white and the variety of mountains, bridges, rivers and trees is quite astonishing. The styles are also very diverse and calligraphy is present in many works. Photographs by Marc Riboud are shown on a video.

Wen Zhengming, landscape following the styles of Dong Yuan and Juran, detail, 1555 ( the little man with his stick visits the scholar in the hut.) © Hong Kong Museum of art

Do not miss this show which is exceptional and book a guided tour on Tuesdays, Thursdays or Saturdays at 2 pm. There are some calligraphy workshops and all kinds of children activities around teh exhibition. The main museum which is free, is also superb. Musée Cernsuchi until March 6.

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3 Comments on “At Musée Cernuschi, 16 th century monks and scholars enchant our eyes”

  1. When I visited Paris in September I stayed near Parc Monceau and Musée Cernuschi was around the corner. Went there and loved it, such a wonderful, small museum with beautiful artefacts.

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