China artists work up-close with old masters in Madrid

Updated 27 January 2013
0

China artists work up-close with old masters in Madrid

With brushes and paint-splotched palette, Chinese artist Yang Feiyun adds the finishing strokes to his latest work: a portrait of the moustached 17th century Spanish King Felipe IV.
An untrained eye would fail to tell the difference between Yang’s canvas and the original by the Spanish master Velazquez, hanging inches away in a crowded gallery at Madrid’s Prado Museum.
“I have been painting my whole life, ever since I was a child, and Velazquez is a master among painters. He is known in China for his great depth,” Yang tells AFP.
A respected artist in China, where he is head of oil painting at the state Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, Yang is now leading 17 other specialists on a pilgrimage to the Spanish capital.
Their mission: to make first-hand copies of some of the jewels of European oil painting and take them home to use in training curious Chinese artists.
“Our aim is to learn a lot and have these works as teaching material in China,” Yang told AFP.
“There is not a long history of oil painting in China — just the past 100 years or so. We are in a learning period.”
In other halls of the vast museum, their walls heaving with masterpieces by Titian, Rubens, Goya and El Greco, Yang’s companions work quietly at their easels under the curious gaze of visitors.
A few steps from Yang, his companion Guo Zhangzheng is executing a smaller version of Titian’s “Emperor Charles V at the Battle of Muehlberg,” a three-meter portrait of the lance-wielding monarch on horseback from 1548.
The Chinese artists — from the state academy and another top fine arts school, the China Academy of Art — are due to stay for just over two weeks. Each aims to produce a copy of two works from the Prado’s collection.
Yang’s first go at copying Velazquez has taken him just five days to render virtually complete.
Paintings on the list for their first week’s work included “The Three Graces” by Peter Paul Rubens and Goya’s “The Third of May 1808 in Madrid,” a harrowing image of French occupying forces executing Spanish patriots by firing squad.
The copies will be exhibited in Beijing, the Prado said.
In a corner of one gallery Sun Wengong, 47, stands plying his brushes in front of Vicente Lopez’s grim-faced 1826 portrait of the painter Francisco de Goya in a grey-blue coat.
“When I’m in a museum in front of the originals, I always feel like I want to copy them or try and do my own version,” Sun says, the messy palette at his feet resembling that of the man in the portrait.
“It helps me a lot as a painter. I have seen lots of prints of the paintings, but prints are nothing like the originals. Being here in front of the originals, you have more direct and true contact with the artists,” he added.
“To be here copying the masterpieces of these painters is the best apprenticeship you could have.”


Ethiopia says British museum must permanently return its artifacts

Updated 24 April 2018
0

Ethiopia says British museum must permanently return its artifacts

  • The artifacts were plundered by British troops from the fortress of Emperor Tewodros II 150 years ago
  • Among the items on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum are sacred manuscripts and gold 

ADDIS ABABA: Britain must permanently return all artifacts from Ethiopia held by the Victoria and Albert Museum and Addis Ababa will not accept them on loan, an Ethiopian government official said.
The call comes after the museum, one of London’s most popular tourist attractions, put Ethiopian treasures plundered by British forces on display.
“Well, it would be exciting if the items held at the V&A could be part of a long-term loan with a cultural institution in Ethiopia,” museum director Tristram Hunt said.
“These items have never been on a long-term loan in Ethiopia, but as we look to the future I think what we’re interested in are partnerships around conservation, interpretation, heritage management, and these need to be supported by government assistance so that institutions like the V&A can support sister institutions in Ethiopia.”
Among the items on display are sacred manuscripts and gold taken from the Battle of Maqdala 150 years ago, when British troops ransacked the fortress of Emperor Tewodros II.
The offer of a loan did not go far enough for Ethiopia.
“What we have asked (for) was the restitution of our heritage, our Maqdala heritage, looted from Maqdala 150 years ago. We presented our request in 2007 and we are waiting for it,” said government minister Hirut Woldemariam said.
Ephrem Amare, Ethiopian National Museum director, added: “It is clearly known where these treasures came from and whom they belong to. Our main demand has never been to borrow them. Ethiopia’s demand has always been the restoration of those illegally looted treasures. Not to borrow them.”
The V&A could not immediately be reached for further comment on Monday.
In launching the Maqdala 1868 exhibition of what Hunt called “stunning pieces with a complex history” this month, he said the display had been organized in consultation with the Ethiopian community in London.
“As custodians of these Ethiopian treasures, we have a responsibility to celebrate the beauty of their craftsmanship, shine a light on their cultural and religious significance and reflect on their living meaning, while being open about how they came to Britain,” he said in a blog on the museum website.