Qiu Ying at LACMA
|Qiu Ying, The Jiucheng Palace (small detail), about 1525–33. Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts, (c) Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts|
Qiu has landed at LACMA with a big, scholarly, and surprisingly accessible show, "Where the Truth Lies: The Art of Qiu Ying." It's unique among American exhibitions of Chinese painting, starting with the playful title. It's no less notable for being organized by a museum that doesn't own a single work by the artist.
The show has been a career-long project for LACMA curator Stephen Little. In 1979 Little, then at San Francisco's Asian Art Museum, recommended the acquisition of an album of Qiu Ying fan paintings and resolved to do a show on the artist, someday. Qiu is a paradox on many levels. He was famous—one of the "four masters of the Wu School"—but also obscure. Almost nothing is known of his life, not even his birth and death years. The gaps in his résumé, plus a few slighting references, have led to the belief that he was of humble background and uneducated (an illiterate literati?). The LACMA show demonstrates Qiu's command of language in a tactful letter asking for rheumatism medicine. Inscriptions on Qiu's paintings by artists such as Wen Zhengming testify to his esteem.
|Qiu Ying, Crab Apple and Mountain Birds, about 1534–42. Shanghai Museum|
Even in his lifetime, copies and forgeries extended Qiu's reputation. His daughter (Qiu Zhu) and a possible son-in-law (You Qiu) were artists in their own rights and meticulous copyists of Qiu's work. The copies and outright forgeries continue to the present day, as do creative reinventions.