Xu Beihong's Put Down Your Whip (4 July 2008)

Attended this fascinating talk at the Singapore Art Museum by a pretty Taiwanese academic from NTU about Xu Beihong, one of the greatest 20th century Chinese painters, and his painting, Put Down Your Whip, which became the most expensive Chinese painting in 2007 when it was sold for HK$72 million.  The most interesting fact is that this painting was painted in Singapore in 1939.


Other interesting facts which emerged from the talk were:


- Xu came to Singapore 7 times from the 1920s to the 1940s.  He stayed for 2 years during his last visit when he tried raising funds among wealthy Singaporeans for the Chinese war effort.


- This painting depicted a play Xu watched and was moved.  The story relates to a father-and-daughter pair who were forced to leave the Northeast during the Japanese Invasion and had to perform from place to place.  When the girl was too hungry to perform properly on one occasion, her father threatened to whip her.  A member of the audience cried out, "Put down your whip."  The angry crowd was about to beat the father when the daughter pleaded for her dad, and told the crowd the sad story of their exile.  The audience then resolved to work together to expel the Japanese from their homeland.


- Xu's break-off letter with his student-mistress was discussed, together with the background behind.


- Xu stayed for over a year in a house in Geylang area which is now the HQ of the Wong Association.  There could be plans to develop this into a museum.