student prank with a painting by Wang Ziwu 王子武
hen and chickens by Wang Ziwu

student prank with Wang Ziwu 王子武

chickens after Wang Ziwu

Traditionally, the Academy in Beijing invited well-known painters of classical Chinese painting to demonstrate their painting techniques on Saturday mornings. The purpose of the exercise was to give the students an insight into topics such as the structure of the picture, brush and ink techniques of well-known painters.

Twice the academy responded to a suggestion from me and since the painters I suggested were from Xi An and Shanghai, it was also very friendly insofar as generally painters from Beijing were invited. Not least because invitations to painters from other provinces involved costs for travel, accommodation and food.

I had come across pictures by the painter Wáng Zǐwu in a regional art magazine, who was hardly known in Beijing at the time, and I shared my enthusiasm with my Chinese colleagues. Those responsible at the academy always did their best, reacted very quickly and Wáng Zǐwǔ was invited. While some painters were very extroverted and got better and better the more students came and watched, Wáng Zǐwǔ was shy and perhaps a certain pressure arose from the fact that he, as a relatively insignificant provincial painter, should now demonstrate his skills in the sanctuary. He started a portrait, broke it off, portrayed a colleague – with moderately good success – and finally, partly to the delight of the colleagues, he painted me. A very good portrait.

At this point he already knew that I had given the suggestion to invite him. As a gesture to me, he invited me and an Australian colleague, Claire R., to visit him the next day at his hostel, which we did with great pleasure. At this meeting we were allowed to “look over his shoulder”. He painted two pictures which he then gave us. A magpie on a willow branch in late autumn for me, a mother hen with five chicks for Claire.

On the way home, Claire asked me to take her picture with me and put it in the drawer of her desk in the studio, since she was invited somewhere else. As soon as I got back to the studio I started copying her picture. Still full of the impressions of that morning, I managed to make the copy quite passably and the colophon looked good too. Always for a joke, I then put the copy in her drawer and the original in mine.

Monday morning came, the Chinese colleagues arrived and Claire proudly showed her beautiful present. Enthusiasm, shop floor talk, congratulations on this picture. A little later our professor appeared. His colleagues immediately told him about the picture and he praised it highly. At this point it was clear to me this harmless student joke had taken an unwanted direction, things got tricky. In order to jovially untie this knot, I took the original out of my drawer and said: “Actually, he made two of the same”. Of course, Claire now knew what was going on and it began to dawn on some colleagues. Professor Y. said, however. “But this is the better one” and pointed to my copy. I think and hope that no one has ever explained the matter to him in more detail.

Twice the academy responded to a suggestion from me and since the painters I suggested were from Xi An and Shanghai, it was also very friendly insofar as generally painters from Beijing were invited. Not least because invitations to painters from other provinces involved costs for travel, accommodation and food.

I had come across pictures by the painter Wáng Zǐwu in a regional art magazine, who was hardly known in Beijing at the time, and I shared my enthusiasm with my Chinese colleagues. Those responsible at the academy always did their best, reacted very quickly and Wáng Zǐwǔ was invited. While some painters were very extroverted and got better and better the more students came and watched, Wáng Zǐwǔ was shy and perhaps a certain pressure arose from the fact that he, as a relatively insignificant provincial painter, should now demonstrate his skills in the sanctuary. He started a portrait, broke it off, portrayed a colleague – with moderately good success – and finally, partly to the delight of the colleagues, he painted me. A very good portrait.

At this point he already knew that I had given the suggestion to invite him. As a gesture to me, he invited me and an Australian colleague, Claire R., to visit him the next day at his hostel, which we did with great pleasure. At this meeting we were allowed to “look over his shoulder”. He painted two pictures which he then gave us. A magpie on a willow branch in late autumn for me, a mother hen with five chicks for Claire.

On the way home, Claire asked me to take her picture with me and put it in the drawer of her desk in the studio, since she was invited somewhere else. As soon as I got back to the studio I started copying her picture. Still full of the impressions of that morning, I managed to make the copy quite passably and the colophon looked good too. Always for a joke, I then put the copy in her drawer and the original in mine.

Monday morning came, the Chinese colleagues arrived and Claire proudly showed her beautiful present. Enthusiasm, shop floor talk, congratulations on this picture. A little later our professor appeared. His colleagues immediately told him about the picture and he praised it highly. At this point it was clear to me this harmless student joke had taken an unwanted direction, things got tricky. In order to jovially untie this knot, I took the original out of my drawer and said: “Actually, he made two of the same”. Of course, Claire now knew what was going on and it began to dawn on some colleagues. Professor Y. said, however. “But this is the better one” and pointed to my copy. I think and hope that no one has ever explained the matter to him in more detail.

I made this photo of Wang Ziwu in 1983 when I has the chace to watch him painting.

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Zettl

alive and well and having fun

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