Photo inspires focus on artist

Updated: Dec 28, 2023 By CHEN NAN CHINA DAILY Print
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Peking Opera production, Qi Baishi, by the Jingju Theatre Company of Beijing, staged in Beijing on Dec 16 and 17, portrays the legendary artist's life after he moved to the capital at the start of the 1920s and his friendship with Peking Opera master Mei Lanfang. CHINA DAILY

Peking Opera production to honor Qi Baishi looks at critical decade in his life, Chen Nan reports.

One day in 1955, Peking Opera master Mei Lanfang (1894-1961) was shooting a documentary directed by Wu Zuguang (1917-2003) about Mei's stage art in Beijing. In the middle of filming, Mei's friend, Qi Baishi (1864-1957) paid a visit. They talked for a while and took a photo together, in which Mei, still wearing his makeup and costume, smiled and stood next to the white-bearded Qi.

The black-and-white photo is on display at Beijing Fine Art Academy, which is home to about 2,000 art pieces by Qi — one of the biggest collections of the established artist's works. Qi served as the first honorary president of the Beijing Fine Art Academy, when it was founded in 1957. After he passed away, Qi's family donated a number of his works and collections to the academy.

The photo also became the start of the collaboration between the Beijing Fine Art Academy and the Jingju Theatre Company of Beijing, which is dedicated to performing and preserving the 200-year-old art form that is Peking Opera, also known as jingju.

The new Peking Opera production, titled Qi Baishi, was premiered in the capital on Dec 16, marking the 160th anniversary of Qi's birth, which falls in 2024.

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