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Xu Beihong (Chinese, 1863-1957)



Xu Beihong was an early 20th-century painter and calligrapher who fused many western painting techniques with traditional Chinese imagery to create wholly original pieces. Many of these works have now come to define the Chinese artistic movements from this time. His light touch, whether with a calligraphy pen or a paintbrush gave his art an extremely fluid and expressionist feel that is striking to behold.

Born in Yixing, China, Beihong toured Europe in the 1920s, studying at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. It was here where he perfected the giant oil paintings that would define the second half of his career. He returned to China in 1927, where he became a teacher and resident artist at a number of prestigious Chinese institutions. He would eventually hold the position of president of the Central Academy of Fine Arts after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. 

What type of art did Xu Beihong Create?

Xu Beihong was a painter and calligrapher best known for his paintings of horses and birds. His movement away from traditional Chinese realism into more expressionistic forms represented a huge leap forward for the Chinese art community of the early 20th century. His large-scale oil paintings fused western techniques with Chinese sensibilities to create something wholly original and beautiful.

How often do Xu Beihong paintings come up for auction?

Xu Beihong is highly collected and as such his paintings come up quite often. That said, the international appeal of his work leads to high prices for many of his paintings. These works are often large, and even his calligraphy scripts can be as big as 50” x 12”. That said, a collector would be wise to consider a Beihong in their collection, not only for their intrinsic worth but because of their striking, stark beauty. 

How much is a Xu Beihong painting worth?

Minor works by Xu Beihong can be had for as low as hundreds of dollars, but his large paintings can sell in the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even his calligraphy scripts have reached into the $40,000-$75,000 range. On the absolute high end, some of Beihong’s work has sold for tens of millions of dollars.

Which Xu Beihong painting is the most valuable? 

The highest price ever paid for a Xu Beihong painting is $41,860,920, for the piece CULTIVATION ON THE PEACEFUL LAND (1953). It features a number of day laborers working in the fields with cattle, a large dead tree in the forefront. It has the artist seal as well as a small calligraphy script that runs along the left hand side of the painting. 

What are the most famous paintings by Xu Beihong? 

Many of the most famous works by Xu Beihong feature birds and horses, a favorite subject of the artist. The work Masterpiece of Horses from Classical Chinese Poetry (1942) is a perfect example of a classic Xu Beihong. Apart from this, the aforementioned CULTIVATION ON A PEACEFUL LAND (1953) is his most valuable. Three horse in the autumn woods (unknown) also exhibits traditional Beihong qualities.

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