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Wuhu Iron Picture Making

Wuhu Iron Picture Making

Wuhu has boasted an advanced iron metallurgical industry since ancient times, and thus the old saying went “The iron will become steel automatically in Wuhu”. This forms the basis of the development of Wuhu iron pictures.

Iron pictures are made using a hammer as the brush and ironwork as the painting, to produce exquisite three-dimensional pictures, using highly developed craft skills and techniques. The craft started during the reign of the Emperor Kangxi during the Qing Dynasty, (1661-1722), with an ironworker from Wuhu named Tang Peng and a painter from Wuhu named Xiaoyun. According to the records of Qing Dynasty: “Every day, Tang Tianchi observes his neighbor, who is a painter, painting. The painter is very angry about that. Since then he works hard and makes iron strips into vivid and natural pictures.” So the Wuhu iron pictures, made by hand, originated from traditional Chinese painting.  They reflect the artistic characteristics of simplicity and nature of the Xinan painting genre. Wrought iron is the raw material that is forged, drilled, lifted, pressed, welded, rasped and chiseled after being heated in the furnace. Iron pictures do not only have the verve of traditional Chinese painting and the three-dimensional creativity of sculpture, but reflect the iron strips’ flexibility and ductility. It is really a work of art with unique style.

Wuhu iron pictures have taken part in the Paris World Expo in France and the Model and Art Exhibition of Budapest, Hungary and have been showcased in over 20 countries including Japan, Kuwait, Italy, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong. In 1958, Mao Zedong and Liu Shaoqi consecutively enjoyed Wuhu iron pictures in the Anhui Museum. They appreciated the excellent techniques and proposed further development.

From 1959 to 1960, an old craftsman named Chu Yanqing and a couple of pupils created a large-scale iron picture, The Pine Greeting Guests, Reservoir in Mei Mountain and iron calligraphy Spring in Qin Garden. Snow is displayed in the Great Hall of The People.

Following three hundred years of tradition and development, Wuhu iron pictures create, as well as traditional small-scale landscapes, lanterns and folding screens, three-dimensional pictures and objects, bonsai, porcelain plates and iron pictures gilded with gold, falling into various categories and many hundreds of kinds, such seated screens, wall paintings, calligraphy, decoration, and displays, which make wonderful gifts both large or small, and providing unique and distinctive additions to any décor.

Now, driven by a market economy and the ageing of a generation of craftsmen with traditional Chinese painting and literary accomplishment, Wuhu iron pictures are at risk of the traditional techniques not being passed down without support and assistance.