BEI HONG XU (July 19, 1895 – September 26, 1953), originally known as SHOU KANG XU  was a distinguished male artist and art educator hailing from Yixing, Jiangsu, China. Proficient in both oil painting and traditional Chinese ink wash painting, he is recognized as one of the pioneering figures in modern Chinese art. Often referred to as one of the "Four Great Deans" alongside WEN LIANG YAN, FENG MING LIN , and HAI SU LIU, BEI HONG XU's notable students include ZHON XIN AI and ZUO REN WU.






Born in Qiting Town, Yixing, Jiangsu, BEI HONG XU began his artistic journey under the guidance of his father, DA ZHANG XU, exploring poetry, literature, calligraphy, and painting from a young age. In 1912, he commenced formal painting studies at a local art school in Yixing. Enrolling in the French Language Department at Fudan University in 1916, he adeptly balanced work and study. A year later, he ventured to Japan for artistic studies, subsequently returning to China to contribute as a mentor at the Painting Research Society of Peking University.

The year 1919 marked BEI HONG XU's journey to France for further artistic exploration. Enrolling in the National School of Fine Arts in Paris in 1923, he delved into the realms of oil painting and sketching. Immersing himself in Western European countries, he absorbed insights into Western art. Returning to China in 1927, he held significant positions such as the head of the Art Department at the Shanghai National College of Art and later as the Dean of the School of Art at Peking University. Relocating to Nanjing in 1929, he continued his teaching career at National Central University.

From 1933 onwards, BEI HONG XU played a pivotal role in organizing and participating in Chinese art exhibitions worldwide. Upon his return to Nanjing, he served as a professor and department head at the School of Art at National Central University. In 1946, he assumed the presidency of the National Beiping Academy of Art, and in 1950, he took on the role of president at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. Concurrently, he held the esteemed position of chairman of the Chinese Artists Association.

BEI HONG XU's profound impact on modern Chinese art and his enduring contributions to art education continue to be revered by subsequent generations.

徐悲鴻 《 雄獅圖 》 鏡心 設色紙本, 103 x 93 cm, 1938

徐悲鴻 《 雄獅圖 》 鏡心 設色紙本
103 x 93 cm, 1938







While BEI HONG XUis most celebrated for his depictions of horses, it's important to note that his artistic prowess extended far beyond equine subjects. He demonstrated a remarkable mastery of the musculature, expressions, and postures of various animals, infusing vitality into both winged and terrestrial creatures within his oeuvre. In the case of "Majestic Lion," the artist adeptly captures the regal essence of a lean and sinewy lion. Employing precise dry brush techniques, he skillfully renders the lion's mane, imbuing the artwork with a sense of dynamism as if it were gently swaying in the wind.

Beneath the surface of this captivating portrayal of a lion lies a deeper layer of meaning.

Executed in 1938, the composition features a male lion seated on rugged and precipitous rocks, casting a determined gaze toward the distance. Despite the lion's lean physique, it emanates an unwavering strength and resolve. The flowing mane, depicted with a deft touch, appears to flutter in the wind, suggesting an environment fraught with impending challenges. Nevertheless, the courageous lion remains resolute, symbolizing indomitable spirit.

In the early months of the same year, BEI HONG XU completed another significant animal-themed masterpiece, "Wounded Lion" (currently housed in the BEI HONG XUMemorial Hall). Comparable in size and featuring a lion with similar anatomy, albeit with a slight adjustment in the angle of the rocks, this work is believed to express BEI HONG XU's defiance and resilience in the face of the adversities of war.

The inscription "Ruo Yu Xiansheng" refers to DAO AN WU, who at the time served as the Vice Chairman of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and was a member of the National Political Consultative Conference in Guizhou. DAO AN WU played a pivotal role in organizing exhibitions for BEI HONG XU in Guangxi and Guizhou. In gratitude for WU's support, BEI HONG XU presented him with this exquisite piece.

徐悲鴻 《 墨竹 》  鏡心 水墨紙本, 90 x 30.5 cm, 1942

徐悲鴻 《 墨竹 》  鏡心 水墨紙本
90 x 30.5 cm, 1942



In the 1940s, a period overshadowed by the ravages of war in China, BEI HONG XU immersed himself in tireless efforts, organizing exhibitions and selling paintings to raise funds for the nation. It was during these turbulent times that he crafted the painting "Ink Bamboo," infusing it with a distinctive emotional depth. The stout and upright bamboo trunk serves as a metaphor for unwavering resilience. The composition focuses on a lone bamboo standing proudly, conveying a sense of solitary fortitude. However, the artist astutely incorporated the emergence of new leaves between the bamboo joints, symbolizing hope and an optimistic outlook for the future.

Executed entirely in pure ink, the interplay of light and shadow on the bamboo trunk transitions seamlessly. This reflects BEI HONG XU's assimilation of Western painting concepts and his adept command of traditional brush and ink techniques.