Woman behind the artist

Updated: 2015-06-18 08:15

By Lin Qi(China Daily)

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Woman behind the artist

Liao Jingwen with her husband, Xu Beihong, and son, Xu Qingping. Liao spent most of her life protecting and cherishing the works of Xu Beihong, one of China's greatest artists. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The two fell in love despite the age gap-Liao was 28 years younger than the artist. After getting married in 1946, they moved to Beijing, where Xu headed the Beiping Art School, later renamed the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1950.

They had a son and a daughter. But the family's happiness came to a sudden end when Xu died from brain hemorrhage at 58.

Shortly afterward, Liao made a generous donation to the Ministry of Culture, including some 1,200 works of Xu and more than 1,000 Chinese paintings in his collection, among other books, calligraphy pieces and important art documents.

She also donated a spacious courtyard house in Beijing, which Xu had bought for her. It was later converted to the Xu Beihong Memorial Museum, where the donations are displayed.

"For me, Beihong was the most important person. He was gone, so why would I still keep such things?"

Liao directed the public museum until her death. In 2005, she sold at an auction the only two works of Xu in her own possession to save the public institution from financial strain.

"I wanted to have the two works accompany me to my tomb. But after many sleepless and tearful nights, I decided to transfer them to people who will love them as much as I did," she told China Daily in 2005.

Liao also opened a studio at the museum offering painting courses.

She was occupied with much appraisal work: Xu's paintings are sought after in the market and fetch high prices at auctions. There were, therefore, many fakes.

"I wish that after I die, I could reunite with Beihong. I will rest my head on his chest and tell him what I've gone through all these years and the pain I suffered from missing him," Liao once said.