The Galloping Horse
You might not expect to find something like this among a medical collection: a Chinese painting of a horse, with its waving mane and floating tail, gallops with explosive energy. For me personally, this painting has a great significance, since its painter, Xu Beihong (Chinese: 徐悲鸿1895-1953), was the first president of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, where I did my undergraduate studies.
Xu Beihong was one of the most famous artists in 20th century China. He is remembered for his innovation in combining traditional Chinese brush and ink techniques with Western perspectives and methods of composition. He loved horses and is known for having created thousands of sketches and paintings of horses during his lifetime.
Born into a poor family, Xu learned painting skill at a very young age from his father, a private school teacher. In 1919, Xu was admitted by the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he studied oil painting and drawing. He toured Europe for years to observe and learn new skills. In 1927, he returned to China, and took posts at several institutions.
‘Beihong’s painting’ stamp (Chinese: 悲鸿之画)
We don’t know when and how this piece came in to our collection. However, we could learn something from his biography and his other paintings of this time. The painting in the RCP’s collection was created in September 1950, a year after the end of Chinese civil war and the establishment of People’s Republic of China. At this time, Xu was appointed as chairman of the China Artists Association and the president of the newly founded Central Academy of Fine Arts. Despite his busy schedule and poor health, he continued to paint.
Most of his paintings around this time were of galloping horses, much like this one in our collection, created as gifts for his friends and associates. On many of his paintings he would write dedications or poems in accordance with the Chinese tradition, however for this painting he only wrote ‘Beihong painted on September 1950 (Chinese:悲鸿1950年九月作)’, with his personal stamp ‘Beihong’s painting (Chinese: 悲鸿之画)’, which suggests this might be one of his practice works.
If you have any information about this painting, you are welcome to contact us!
The Galloping Horse painting features in the current exhibition, RCP Unseen which showcases rarely seen collections from The Royal College of Physicians' museum, heritage library and archives.
Yuewei Wang, Student placement
Liao. Jingwen, Xu Beihong Biography
Object in our collection: