When a country falls and its power declines, it is imperative to take reform. After the May Fourth New Culture Movement, the “tide of studying abroad”, as a way to transform China and make it strong, became one of the most characteristic phenomenon of Chinese art at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Studying in Japan, France, and later the Soviet Union were three routes of studying abroad and became three holy lands for Chinese art moving towards modernity. If “studying in Japan” was the beginning of China’s entry into formal art education, then “studying in France” established the system and pattern of Chinese modern art development. The “Pioneering” exhibition traces the violent history of Chinese artists studying in France as well as its influence on the modern advancement of Chinese art. Retrospect is for looking into the future firmly. In the early 20th century, despite frequent wars, it was full of stories, and the development of the reform promoted the exchange and integration of ideas across regions and cultures. In the past two years, more and more early case studies have been conducted, but a large-scale academic review is still in short supply, so this grand exhibition is planned and organized under such a background. On the occasion of the continental celebration of CAFA, it mobilizes academic resources, as CAFA Art Museum calls up a curatorial team from multiple channels to construct this exhibition, inviting experts and scholars who have conducted an in-depth research on the field of “studying abroad in France”, including Dong Song, Philippe CINQUINI, Liu Libin, Jiang Mingyang, to participate in the curating work. After carefully checking historical materials and searching for missing pieces of works, the curatorial team sorted out the final appearance of the exhibition from interlaced clues. The topic of the exhibition involves multiple perspectives, such as the spread of Western modern art in China, the transformation of Chinese art to modernity, and the starting point of Chinese modern art education, and so on. With compact structure and grand scale the cultural phenomenon of “studying abroad in France” is deeply explored and presented in the exhibition.Oil painting comes from the West, and the establishment of its discourse subject is inseparable from the way of teaching and learning. At that time, France was the center of world art, China was in the climax of the tide of “Studying Abroad in France”, and Europe was also on the node of transition from classical tradition to various trends of modern art. When the first batch of Chinese artist studying in France returned to China, they displayed their talent to build schools, resume education, start publications, and hold exhibitions in devastation, and put the artistic concepts and techniques they learned in France into practice in the social soil of China. Their drastic speculation on modern art was like a ripple in the pool of China. How to comb through this complex history without having any prejudice? The curator Hong Mei mentions that when it comes to the transformation of Chinese art in the first half of the 20th century, whether they were pioneers of exploration who tended to modern appeals of Western classical academia school and Realism, or those forerunners who were on the road of modern appeal approaching various Western modernist schools, they jointly propelled the formation and development of the basic appearance of Chinese art in the 20th century. From this way of thinking, the exhibition set up an open space for showing them on the same stage. As the exhibition clues move forward, the diverse and rich artistic ideas of these artists of that time are presented in a broader framework, and finally back to the central theme.In the premise of following the above-mentioned curatorial ideas, the details of the exhibition are also made clear with more designs that fit in the whole picture. The presentation starts with the works of Wu Fading and Wang Rujiu who were among the first artists studying in France and ends with Liu Ziming, the last artist who studied in France in 1949. Xu Beihong was the first student to study in France at public expense, and many vital works created by him during his study in France are displayed at the beginning of the exhibition. Wu Guanzhong and Zhao Wuji went to France at the end of the whole trend, and directly opened the prelude of another era in their entire artistic creation. The well-planned layout of square shape, both objective and monolithic, not only give consideration to the personal appearance of the artists but also points to the deep reasons and driving forces for the formation of the phenomenon of studying in France. It concentratedly reproduces the scene of the mixed group of students studying in France who pursued Modernism, which touches the audience’s heart after watching the exhibition. In addition to the masterpieces of famous painters, the curator Hong Mei has done much hard work to select works and complete the list of exhibits in the process of sorting. The exhibition excavates and brings out the works of artists such as Xie Touba, Guo Yinglin, Wang Rujiu, Li Fengbai, Lei Guiyuan, Liu Ziming, and so on, which enables the works of many artists studying in France who have faded out of mainstream art history to be exposed to the public again. The scholar Dong Song traces the historical data of Guo Yinglin, an artist missing in the history circle for a long time, and makes the three Guo Yinglin’s paintings, which have been covered with dust in CAFA Art Museum for many years, be shown to the public for the first time, which attracts the attention of experts and scholars again, and also reflects the curatorial team’s respect for original history appearance as well as their self-consciousness for mining historical materials.Among the courses selected by many artists who studied in France, oil painting, sketch and sculpture were the main subjects. However, due to the small amount of existing historical materials and objects of early sculptures, the research on sculpture and modern sculpture has been quite difficult as it has been in a weak position. In this “Pioneering” exhibition, apart from the clues from canvas works, the sculpture section “Chinese Sculptors Who Studied in France: Chinese Artists Abroad in France and Chinese Modern Sculpture” that curated by Liu Libin is another highlight of the exhibition and forms a complementary perspective.This special exhibition uses three sections to review the main activities of sculptors who studied in France. From a large number of raw materials, images and works on display, it is surprising to find that their creation styles are quite distinct. During their time in France, their nude portraits showed the exact proportions of the human body, in line with the artistic aesthetic expression techniques, and many works even won the salon award. With the development need of Chinese monument sculpture and urban space, a large number of public sculpture projects have been promoted. In order to make sculpture survive in the realistic soil, these sculptors made more explorations, changes, and practices in the combination of Western sculpture and traditional Chinese sculpture.Due to these complex historical reasons, in order to highlight the academic value and practical significance of modern Chinese sculpture in the first half of the 20th century, curator Liu Libin led a shooting team to Chongqing, Chengdu, and other cities to search for the public sculpture that inspired people during the Anti-Japanese War. By using aerial photos and holographic projection, they try their best to bring the audience close to the context in which these sculptures were created, through showing original works, presenting graphics and texts, and restoring public sculptures with 3D reconstruction. Among them, Liu Kaiqu’s “Monument of Unknown Heroes” is presented vividly with the high-tech way of 3D images, which is an innovative way to attract viewers to have a more comprehensive and multi-level understanding of the pioneers of modern sculpture.The man who eats the fruit thinks of the tree, and the man who drinks the water thinks of the source. Tracking back to the cause of knowledge and context, the special exhibition “Chinese Artists Abroad in France and Their French Teachers”, combs through the influence of those French teachers on Chinese artists who had studied in France, and thus leads to a hidden clue that promoted the formation of Modernist ideas of Chinese artists – French teachers. Curator Philip CINQUINI has conducted a profound study on Xu Beihong as well as the learning process and teacher-student relationship of Chinese artists studying in France in the early of the 20th century. From this point of view, compared with the migration process of different technical elements moving from one civilization to another, it is more important that artists absorbed these elements from France and practice them in China. During the process, the connection built between Chinese artists and French artists had played a crucial role.In this special exhibition, the curator selected the works from four French artist of Academism of École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris (ENSBA): Fernand Cormon, Paul Albert Besnard, Pascal DAGNAN-BOUVERET, and Francois Flameng; the artists who had associated with the modernist movement of the early 20th century; early Faurist painter Othon Friesz, and two French Cubist painters Andre Lhote and Jean Souverbie. They either taught or directly trained at independent colleges and had a direct impact on the thinking of Chinese students in the process of teaching them. The exhibition also presents the works of French teachers who had traveled to China or Asia to teach, such as André Maire, who had taught Dong Xiwen at the branch school of ENSBA in Hanoi, Vietnam. André Claudot used to teach at Beiping Art School in Beijing and then went to Hangzhou with Lin Fengmian.In this special section, all the details of Chinese artists taking Western painters as the reference gather together and eventually lead to the history of the direction selection and appearance formation of Chinese art transformation in the first half of the 20th century. It also brings about the profound issue about choosing artistic view in the past a hundred years of exploration.In 1917, Cai Yuanpei, Li Shizeng and other artists established the Sino-French Education Association and a Work-Study program in Beijing. For that, a large number of art students gained the opportunity to study in France under a study-work basis. There were more than one hundred art students studying in France, and in addition to ENSBA, many students spent their time in private studios, becoming the largest number of international students at that time. In an era of great changes, the pioneering students studied with determination and perseverance, endured the loneliness of being in a foreign country, and pursued true knowledge of art while feeling the free air of art in France at that time, and then continuously prompted the emergence of different associations. The well-known ones include “Hopps Association”, “The Association of Chinese Artists in France”, “Chinese Art Society in France”, and so on. On April 2, 1933, The Association of Chinese Artists in France was founded at Chang Shuhong’s residence in Paris, France. Chang Shuhong expressed in the article “The Establishment of The Association of Chinese Artists in France” (published in the special issue for the Association of Chinese Artists in France, No.8, Volume 2, Yifeng magazine) that, “we feel deeply comforted in spirit by the freedom to comment on the state of the art world and art problems, yet in order to consolidate our foundation and develop our external cause, it seems that we need an appropriate organization.” By April 1934, the Association of Chinese Artists in France had held 16 meetings in one year (according to Li Han’s preliminary study on the artists’ group of the Association of Chinese Artists in France in 1930s). It went through several different historical periods and continued to play a role until around 1950. In 1984, the last president of the association, Mr. Pan Yuliang, returned to China with relevant materials, which enabled the data of the association activities after 1934 to be able to enter the research field, and scholar Dong Song made an in-depth study on it. Dong Song and Jiang Mingyang jointly curated the special exhibition of “A Village in a Foreign Land: Association of Chinese Artists Abroad in France”, and based on the analysis of the three historical development stages of the association to present relevant materials to the audience completely for the first time. Within the exhibition, there is a member list of the association, which involves more than 110 artists from the first session to the reelection of it in 1945, and includes information collected about them: portrait, birth and death year, birthplace, subject, and the period of their stay in France. It is a collection and presentation of precious academic historical materials. However, over the turbulent years, it has been difficult to verify the birth and death years of some artists and find their photo materials. Without the carrying out of these research works, they would disappear into the long history.To some extent, this special exhibition serves as documentary support for the main exhibition. Through essays, letters, manuscripts, photos of activities, original works that created for fundraising the Anti-Japanese War, and other valuable objects and documents, intertwined organically with visual works of other exhibition areas, the viewers can read the artists’ minds, perceive their context, and then dig out a lot of dramatic stories behind them. As a warm place and spiritual home for those living and studying in France, the association had carried their ideals and persistence, their meetings and partings, providing a silhouette to see the ups and downs of the trend of “Studying Abroad in France”.