Ties that Bind: Yangzhou and Westport From the Westport Public Art Collections

During the 2019-2020 school year, music and art of China was the focus of the Westport Youth Concert Global Initiative. Throughout the year, students learned about the musical traditions of China, and art teachers planned lessons incorporating Chinese art, culminating in the concert at Staples High School in early February.

You can see the 2020 Westport Youth Concert here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZu9FwpHVYQ

To complement this program, Westport Public Art Collections (WestPAC) organized an installation of two ink paintings by artists from Yangzhou from the Town collection, and a selection of six photographs taken in China by renowned photographer Larry Silver, who lives in Westport. Here is a digital version of the exhibit!

The art of Chinese painting stretches back thousands of years. Traditional Chinese artists use ink and colors to paint on paper or silk. These same materials are used in calligraphy, writing with a brush. The arts of calligraphy, painting, and poetry are called the “three perfections” in China, and all three are often combined in one work.

Chinese Landscape Painting

Chinese paintings are categorized by the subject matter they show, and artists often specialize in one type of painting.

Landscape painters try to take you, the viewer, on an imaginary journey through their scenery and usually include clues to human presence. The word for landscape in Chinese is "shan shui" 山水 which means "mountains and water." These two natural elements are included in most landscape paintings. Water can also take the form of mist or blank space separating different areas of the painting.

Guo Rong 郭荣, Streams and Mountains - Clear Peaks 溪山清岳 (2004), ink and color on paper

Can you find a path to travel along in this landscape painting?

Where would you start your journey?

What natural and man-made things do you see along the way?

The artist of this painting, Guo Rong (1946-2010), was a member of the Yangzhou Chinese Painting Academy. It was presented to the Town of Westport in 2005.

To find out more about Chinese landscape painting, you can read the essay "Landscape Painting in Chinese Art" on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Heilbrunn Timeline

Flower and Bird Painting

Flower and bird paintings (huaniao hua 花鸟画) typically show close-up views of plants and birds. They often reference a specific season and the symbolic meanings of various flowers.

Guo Ming 郭明, Purple Fog 紫霧 (1998), ink and color on paper

Why do you think the artist titled his painting “purple fog”?

Do you recognize the specific plants or birds depicted here?

What are the birds doing? How are they painted differently from one another?

What parts of the painted areas look similar to the writing? Can you imagine where the painter pressed down on, or picked up, his brush?

The artist of this painting, Guo Ming (b. 1953), is a member of the Yangzhou Chinese Painting Academy. This painting was also presented to the Town of Westport in 2005.

Photographs of China by Larry Silver

In 1996, Larry Silver — a renowned photographer who lives in Westport — visited Yangzhou with a town delegation. The Chinese government invited him back in 1999. During both trips, Larry took hundreds of beautiful black and white photographs of the people and places he saw. His works are held in many public and private collections.

Larry kindly lent a selection of six photographs to display along the ink paintings in our schools throughout this year. They capture a place and a way of life that is very much changed today.

Larry Silver, (L) School Band Trombone Player, Yangzhou, China, 1996; (top R) Six Dancers, School for the Deaf and Blind, Yangzhou, China, 1996; (bottom R) Two Boys Outstretched Between Two Buildings, Yangzhou, China, 1996, gelatin silver print ©Larry Silver
Larry Silver, Junk, a Fisherman’s Home, Yangzhou, China, 1996, Gelatin silver print ©Larry Silver
Larry Silver, Girl Playing Chinese Ancient Zheng, Yangzhou China, 1996, gelatin silver print ©Larry Silver
Guo Ming 郭明, Purple Fog 紫霧 (1998), ink and color on paper

Compare the painting by Guo Ming to the photograph by Larry Silver. Can you find anything they have in common?

Can you compare the two landscapes below, one painted and one photographed? What is similar about them? What appears different?

Left: Guo Rong 郭荣, Streams and Mountains - Clear Peaks 溪山清岳 (2004), ink and color on paper Right: Larry Silver, Man Repairing Road, Hebei Province, China, 1998, gelatin silver print, ©Larry Silver

Chinese Art & Photography in WestPAC Learning Galleries

The exhibit installed at Kings Highway Elementary

This exhibit has rotated through all five elementary schools this year, and was installed at Staples High School for the Westport Youth Concert in February.

Left: Larry Silver at SHS, Top Right: CES art teacher Deb Goldenberg teaching with the exhibit; Lower Right: The exhibit installed at Long Lots School
Brush paintings by long Lots students

Westport and Yangzhou: Sister Cities

Westport and Yangzhou are Sister Cities, which means they promote cultural and educational exchange between them to improve human and global understanding. In a symbolic gesture, in 2005 Yangzhou presented Westport with the two ink paintings featured on this page. Another painting, "Peony Flowers" was given to the Town in 1996, and is currently hanging at Westport Town Hall.

Zhu Xu, Peony Flowers, ink and color on silk

In 2015 Yangzhou celebrated its 2,500th birthday, and the Town of Westport produced a video message with officials, students, residents, and artists — including Larry Silver — collectively wishing their sister city “Happy Birthday.” The next year, a group of students and teachers from Yangzhou visited Westport and our schools.

Screenshot of the "Happy Birthday Yangzhou" video; please click this link to view it

Thank you for exploring with us!

To learn more about the Westport Public Art Collections (WestPAC) and to Search the collections visit westportarts.org

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Please consider making a donation to Friends of WestPAC via PayPal to help us to care for our artworks and to create programs like this for you.

Created By
Westport Public Art Collections


All works by Larry Silver are copyright Larry Silver Other artworks courtesy of Westport Public Art Collection Photo of The Five Pavilion bridge of Yangzhou By Gisling - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0 View of the Saugatuck Bridge in Westport, CT By Jllm06 - Own work, CC0 Map of China By Uwe Dedering - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,