April 26, 2022

Luo Zhongli: Social Commentary through Artistic Expression

Libby Austin

Luo Zhongli signature in pinyin and characters ca. 1987

The Chinese Cultural Revolution was the decade-long socio-political movement headed by Mao Zedong whose death in the mid-1970s spurred an uprising of authors and artists. The newfound courage to artistically express truths of the Revolution expressed through themes of love and faith was named Scar Art or Scar Literature. This movement corresponds to the Beijing Spring, a time of political liberalization after the Revolution, and is the "works of the wounded." Works of art and literature produced during the Scar Movement represent a shift in the society of China. This pseudo-freedom in China inspired Luo Zhongli to represent the hardships experienced by the Chinese people, particularly those of the Daba Mountains.

6235391: Luo Zhongli (China 1948), Portrait of a Woman, Oil on Canvas, 1987 2AEW1P

6235390: Luo Zhongli (China 1948), Portrait of a Man, Oil on Canvas, 1987 2AEW1P

Zhongli's early works exemplified hyper-realism through portraits of ethnic minorities that waned from the traditional portrayal of noble subjects and stimulated a new perception of the Chinese reality.  Depictions of rural folk with aged features and somber expressions are representative of the misfortune of their circumstances. This period of Luo's was evocative of his training at the Royal Academy of Fine Art in Belgium. The reputation of Zhongli and his social commentaries through his artistic expression cultivated his style. His works began to take on a rustic nature, depicting scenes of general life through a folk-art aesthetic with colorful illustrations of manneristic figures in provincial settings. Throughout this phase of his career and into the next, this bold expressionism would become definitive of Luo Zhongli's portfolio. Although Zhongli's style changed vastly over his 4-decade long career his message was constant, the true nature of the people of China is one of hardship and oppression, as well as progression. That although the Chinese culture is traditionally romanticized, it is rooted in real life, and we must remember that the greatness of China is due to the hard-working laborers just as much as it is the nobility.

Two Portraits by Luo Zhongli are featured in iGavel Auction’s Spring 2022 Asian, Ancient, and Ethnographic Works of Art Auction.

By repute, this set was purchased in 1987 directly from Luo Zhongli at his solo exhibition held at the Embassy of Belgium Beijing, China.

The sale of each of the two paintings is live for bidding until April 27, 2022 and start at a conservative reserve.