Claire Roberts: Friendship in Art

Artists confront their Chineseness

Peter Hill


Friendship in Art: Fou Lei and Huang Binhong
by Claire Roberts
Hong Kong University Press, $59.95 hb, 247 pp, 9789888028405


This fascinating book tells of the friendship between two Chinese artists: the traditional brush painter Huang Binhong (1865–1955) and the Chinese writer, critic, and translator Fou Lei (1908–66). While the long tail of Modernism swept through the twentieth century, decelerating only during the two world wars, and following reductive tendencies based on the early work of either Picasso or Duchamp, cultural workers in China had to deal with the end of the old imperial order, foreign invasion, the rise of communism, and the imposition of socialist realism, quickly followed by the decade-long Cultural Revolution. Then came Tiananmen Square and its twenty-year aftermath of commercial openness and democratic closure. These were dangerous times, and just as Walter Benjamin in the West committed suicide in the shadow of the rise of totalitarianism in Europe, so too did Fou Lei in 1966, at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution.

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.

Published in March 2011 no. 329
Peter Hill

Peter Hill

Peter Hill is a Glasgow-born Australian. He works as an artist, writer, and curator. His book Stargazing: Memoirs of a Young Lighthouse Keeper (Canongate/Random House Australia) won a Saltire Award in 2004 at the National Library of Scotland.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.