Pioneers of Modern Chinese Painting in Paris • De Sarthe Gallery, Hong Kong

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Perhaps nothing welds peoples together more closely than a common understanding and respect for each other’s cultures.  This is what I felt when I lived in the French capital.  As I strolled through the beautiful streets of Paris and passed the historic buildings, I forgot that I was in a strange land and that my home in Canton was thousands of miles away.  I was quite young then and did not speak the language but it did not seem to matter.  When I visited the Louvre day after day, the masterpieces there spoke to me in a language which was neither French nor Chinese but which transcended both time and place. Here was something universal which had meaning for every man regardless of race or station.  A painting by Cézanne or Courbet became as close to me as any of the scrolls by the Chinese masters with which I was so familiar.  And I realized then that East and West were not so far apart, for in their finest creative effort, there was something very much akin.

Yun Gee
New York, September 1944


de Sarthe Gallery is pleased to present an extremely rare collection of masterpieces in “Pioneers of Modern Chinese Painting in Paris.” Through the great swathes of history Sino-French artists of the early 20th century have been heralded as fundamental pioneers in the canon of Chinese art history. The exhibition will be held from 13th May – 21st June 2014 and feature the works of:

Chu Teh-Chun 1920-2014 (Paris 1955-2014)
Lin Fengmian 1900-1991 (Paris 1920-1926)
Pan Yuliang 1895-1977 (Paris 1921-1928/1937-1977)
Sanyu 1901-1966 (Paris 1921-1966)
T’ang Haywen 1927-1991 (Paris 1948-1991)
Wu Dayu 1903-1988 (Paris 1922-1927)
Wu Guanzhong 1919-2010 (Paris 1947-1950)
Wu Zouren 1908 – 1997 (Paris 1930/1931 – 1934/1935)
Xiong Bingming 1922-2002 (Paris 1947-2002)
Xu Beihong 1895-1953 (Paris 1919-1927)
Yun Gee 1906 – 1963 (Paris 1927 – 1930)
Zao Wou-Ki 1920-2013 (Paris 1948-2013)

Following World War I, reform-minded Chinese debated how best to modernize their nation. It was under such revolutionary auspices that intellectual leader Chen Duxiu proposed the “Revolution of Art” – spurning a generation of Chinese artists to emigrate to Europe in search of deliverance. In the early 20th century, Paris was the global epicenter of great intellectual and cultural achievement, with old traditions challenged by avant-garde movements. It was against this backdrop that the pioneers of modern Chinese painting emerged. Straddling cultures, the artists departed from their centuries old Chinese heritage by infusing their works with a Western visual language.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China and France, this exhibition will feature a stellar 15 masterpieces from the first and second generations of the most important Chinese artists who moved to, or worked temporarily, in Paris from 1919 onward. It will also demonstrate how the second-generation artists such as Zao Wou-Ki, Chu The-Chun, and T’ang Haywen later returned to their roots and created a “Chinese Abstraction”, a measured reconciliation of Chinese and European aesthetics.

Represented artists in the exhibition also established important conventions across a scope of traditional subjects; from Xu Beihong’s important horses in Chinese ink to Sanyu and Pan Yuliang’s female nudes and Xiong Bingming’s buffalo sculptures – leaving a mark and resounding influence on the course of art from China.

Many from within this distinguished group of artists were admitted into the Académie des Beaux-Arts, and their importance have been recognised by leading global institutions, as well as highly commended in the art market. Their works form part of permanent collections of important international museums and are widely exhibited in both private and public institutions throughout Europe, America and Asia. Concurrently, the works of these pioneers of Modern Chinese painting are also sought after by private collections – breaking a multitude of auction records over the years. These fathers heralded the golden age of painting and cross-nation expression, influencing visual culture until this day.