The average ratio of males to females in the human population of the world today is roughly even, and it goes without saying that the role of women and their contribution to civilization should neither be overlooked nor underestimated. Comparatively speaking, the National Palace Museum collection features not only a wealth of art on the subject of ladies but also a number of exceptional artworks by women themselves. Unfortunately, however, traditional Chinese society was basically developed and dominated by men over thousands of years. Hence, expressions in Chinese emerged such as "men above and women below," "a man’s place is outside and a woman's at home," "a girl's beauty lies in her weakness," and "a girl's virtue is having no talent." They had a profound affect on women and led to many deep-rooted stereotypes, resulting in far too many ladies of talent being stifled and unable to fulfill their potential. Sympathy for and attention to the plight and situation of these women become all the more apparent in the works of art on and by them.
This special exhibition features a selection of 71 fine works of art from the National Palace Museum collection arranged by period and divided into two categories: "Norms of Female Beauty" and "Ladies of Artistic Talent." The first category offers a broad chronological perspective of paintings on ladies from the Five Dynasties era down to modern times as a way to clearly outline the diverse roles of women in art and the styles of these beautiful works. The second category presents painting, calligraphy, and textile works of art by women artists themselves. Though some of them have been recorded by name in the annals of history, compared to men, they are few and far between. Nevertheless, it is not too difficult to find exquisite and stylistically unique works in brush and ink from the hands of women artists in Chinese art history, the selections in this section of the exhibit fully revealing their talent in various fields.
In the 21st century, during this continuing age of women power, the National Palace Museum hopes this special exhibition can display not only the beauty of art but also encourage further thought on subjects related to women to form new perspectives of epochal significance for the future.
Publication: She & Her: On Women and Their Art in Chinese History