The photo taken in 1963 shows He Xiangning jointly creating a painting with prominent artists Fu Baoshi (left) and Pan Tianshou (center). China DAILY

A girl named He Xiangning was born to an affluent family in Hong Kong in 1878.

Her parents had no expectation that she, their ninth child, would become an accomplished person. They only wanted her to be obedient and quiet, like other women were expected to be during China’s feudal era.

Decades later, He rose to fame as a revolutionary, social activist and avid advocate of women’s rights. She served in a number of high-ranking governmental positions after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and today she is recognized as one of the nation’s greatest women of the 20th century.

He’s achievements as a gifted and well-trained painter, however, are less well-known to the public.

The New Paintings of Flowing Water and High Mountains, an exhibition at the Art Museum of Beijing Fine Art Academy running through Feb 28, reveals her diverse craftsmanship and extensive connections in cultural circles.

The exhibition showcases He’s paintings and works she collaborated on from the collection of the He Xiangning Art Museum in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. The institution, which opened in 1997, is dedicated to the research and display of He’s work.

Also on display are paintings offered by the academy that were created by noted artists whom He got on well after she relocated to Beijing in 1949. She resided in the capital until her death in 1972.

The exhibition offers a distinctive perspective into the extraordinary life of a woman whose commitment to the progress of modern China complemented her artistic evolution over the course of more than seven decades, says Xue Liang, a senior curator of the academy’s museum.