Ren Huixian Modern-day Embroidery Artist

Ren Huixiank Modern-day Embroidery Artist

 By Ren Guohua
Ren Huixian( 1915-2003) was a famous embroidery artist of contemporary times. She was a disciple of the crisscross stitch and the creator of the false-and-true crisscross stitch.
Ren Huixian was born in Danyang, Jiangsu, and graduated from Zhengze Ladies’ Embroidery School founded by Lv Fengzi, noted painter and art educator, in 1935. she was apprenticed to Yang Shouyu, embroidery artist and initiator of the crisscross stitch, and painter Lu Fengzi. She learned embroidery and painting and obtained high marks in her studies. She was good both at painting and embroidery, but her calligraphy was also noteworthy. After graduation, she became a teacher at the school.
She went to Chongqing when she school was relocated there in 1937, and taught embroidery at the Zhengze Art School and National Art School. She and Yang Shouyu worked together in Chongqing for more than eight years.
In the 1950s, she helped to establish the embroidery group of the Suzhou Municipal Literary Federation, Research Institute. She was appointed an art instructor for the making fo national gifts, and director and art inspector of the crisscross stitch of the Suzhou Embroidery Research Institute. In 1956, she was elected, together with Lu Fengzi., Fu Baoshi, Chen Zhifo, Liu Haisu and Qian Songyan, as a member of the Preparatory Committee for the Jiangsu Association of Artists.
She worked as an embroiderer for more than 70 years and in that time improved the crisscross stitch. When her work Lenin at the Side of Lazri Lake was exhibited in 1952, she was acclaimed by noted writer Zhou Shoujuan as “modern needle sage.” When Chairman Mao Zedong visited the Soviet Union after the exhibition, her work was presented to the leader of the Soviet Union as a national gift. In 1956, when she completed her work Lenin Meets Peasants’ Representatives, the People’s Daily carried and article titled “Flowers of Friendship Bloom on Brocade,” which praised her skill. Her embroidery was chosen by the Sino-So-Viet Friendship Association as a gift for the 40th anniversary of the October Revolution of the Soviet Union.
But Ren Huixian nverr rested on her laurels. She continued to launch innovations in her art.. after carefully studying the different embroidery schools and absorbing the techniques of Chinese and foreign  paintings, she successfully blended the pencil strokes touches of the sketches, the appeal of the ink and wash, and the light and shade effect of photography into her embroidery, thus inventing her world-renowned false-and-true crisscross stitch embroidery.
In 1958, she embroidered A Bust of Lenin by using the false-and-true crisscross stitch technique, alternating the true and false, the dense and sparse and the thick and thin lines, and borrowing the base color. The piece was neat, lively and well-composed with simple colors. It won a gold prize at the Chinese Arts and Crafts Masters’ Top-Quality standard for portrait embroideries at a national competition.
In 1959, she embroidered a portrait for Zhu Qiqian, China’s famous architect, embroidery works collector and connoisseur of modern art. Zhu was very pleased with the portrait, and wrote to her saying “such a lifelike work is as good as nay embroidery done by Shen Shou. By using the false-and-true crisscross stitches, the work has a deeper impact.”
In 1966, she and her colleague Zhao Lizhu worked together to produce a double-faced embroidery with different colors and images called Portraits of Heroes. They embroidered two different images with different colors on their clothes, on the front and back of the same piece of material. It was a unique and pioneering creation in the history of embroidery.
In 1976, she embroidered the Portrait of Qj Baishi by assimilating the fineness, elegance and neatness of Suzhou embroidery. She changed the crude style of the crisscross stitch and made it look fine and smooth, thus forming a Suzhou school of crisscross stitich. In the early 1980s the embroidered portrait for Wu Yifang was based on an oil painting, Ren combined the crisscross stitch and plain stitch to depict a woman who was both strong and tender. Using a photo as the basis for the Portrait of Zhou Jianren, Ren used the false-and-true crisscross stitch to portray his purity, simplicity and scholarly elegance. On the basis of a sketch for the Portrait of Ye Shengtao, Ren embroidered with mono-color thread and loose lines to express his proud and ethical character. In the three portraits, Ren demonstrated her masterful ability to innovate.
U.S. photograher Bobert Glenn Ketchum once cooperated with the Suzhou Embroidery Research Institute. Ren Huixian led her students in embroidering Cedara and Steam Pond on the basis of his photos. She taught them to use false-and-true crisscross stitches to capture an expressionistic style, much to the surprise of the photographer. “Chinese embroidery can easily portray Western arts,” he said, “Ren Huixian the reapearance of Monet”
Ren was still working at the age of 86. She used the false-and true crisscross stitching technique to create the three decorative works: White Snow, Big Red Flowers and Big Yellow Flowers. She not only saved on labor and materials, bu demonstrated her special artistic flair and captured the spirit of the times, much to people’s admiration. Her embroidered flowers, birds, animals, figures and landscapes were all done with meticulous care.
She began teaching embroidery in the 1930s, and trained a large number of students, most of whom are eminent embroiderers in China today. She also had three books published on embroidery theory: the Crisscross Stitch Technique, A Brief Discussion on the Flase-and True Crisscross Stitch Embroidery, and Ren Huixian’s Embroidery Art.
She was named a Senior Arts and Crafts Engineer in 1987, and was given the titles Arts and Crafts Master and National Specialist with Special Contributions in 1988.
In 1999, after her retirement at age 85 from the post of art inspector in the Suzhou Embroidery Research Institute, she launched the Master Ren Huixian’s Embroidery Art Work Room. She cooperated with the China Embroidery Art ( Hong Kong) Development Company Ltd in opening the Suzhou Ren Huixian Embroidery Development Company Ltd in 2000, aiming to develop and improve the Chinese embroidery culture, to train a future generation of master embroiderers, and to pass on the art of Suzhou embroidery.
The company now has many people engaged in creation and research of embroidery, with Ren’s students, semipro artists and craftsmen, and embroidery theoreticians forming its backbone. In the past few years they have produced a large number of high-quality works. They have opened four exhibition galleries in the Shangtang historic preservation zone in Suzhou, in Shenzhen, Beijing and the headquarters, with a total area of some 2,500 square meters. These galleries have so far received about 70,000 visitors, including people from all parts of China, and artists and eminent personages from Japan, Korea, Italy, Finland, Austria and Belgium. The company has also held embroidery exhibition in Japan, Korea, Ukraine, Russia, Germany, Finland, France, Poland, the United States and the Hong Kong region.
Grand master Ren Huixian has devoted her life to embroidery and still works to promote the cultural exchanges with other countries.

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