The Painter from Shanghai

Pan YuliangThis beautiful book is based on the true life story of ‘Pan Yulian’, a memoir of a remarkable Chinese woman. She was one of the most talented, provocative and daring Chinese artists of the twentieth century. I read this book after coming back from China and Shanghai. The book is set in the China, in the cities of Wuhu, Nanjing and glamorous pre war Shanghai, later in France and Italy and back in China against the backdrop of dramatic changes in Chinese culture and politics.

Although the book is based on facts is reads as a novel and keeps you page turning. Yuliang was sold into prostitution as a young child, gradually she became well respected in her trade and could only be chosen by the elite gentlemen. A government official from Wuhu grew rather besotted with her, consequently he bought her out of the trade, thus she became his personal concubine. Their relationship and love deepened and she became his second wife.  Her husband was good to her, he gave her enough leeway that she could develop herself within the artist world. She managed to become a student at the Shanghai Arts Academy, quite remarkable being the first woman to be admitted later she went for further tuition in Europe. In China she found resistance and hindrance to develop her creativity, find models and go to college. Nevertheless doggedly she went on and due to her strong character and determination with success. The vivid characterizations, remarkable descriptions and the book’s intimacy make it on a whole fantastic story. Having been in China myself the descriptions were all the more realistic.

She became renown for her self-portraits and female nudes, often of herself lacking available models or of bathing women in the Shanghai bath houses. These nudes caused her large problems with conservative officials, her & her husband’s social network and at her Art Academy. Now her paintings have gained her her reputation and brought her prizes. I am now seeking a museum or exhibition on her works to see her paintings for myself, most of her paintings are back in China.

Author: Jennifer Cody Eptein; ISBN: 978-0-141-02933-7

The painter of Shangahi

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