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19th century European art on show in Beijing
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The 19th century was a time when diverse art forms including neoclassicism, academic and Pre-Raphaelite art blossomed.(Photo: CCTV.com)

"From Academia to Impressionism -- Master Pieces of the 19th century European paintings" is currently taking over Beijing's art scene.

The exhibition is not about the presentation of art history, as you might expect from typical museum experiences. Instead it reveals how one man's obsession provided the world with a greatly influential set of works from a century of European painting.

The show offers a brisk and eccentric run through a century of Western painting.

The 100 masterpieces are works similar to those found in collections in the world's most prestigious art museums. But these paintings are rarely seen by the public since they were collected by sharp-eyed buyers before they were recognized. They were then selected and purchased by Mexican business magnate Juan Antonio Perez Simon.

The famed art connoisseur and his Juntos Actuados foundation have brought a small portion of his collections to Asia for the first time.

They are currently on show at Beijing's World Art Museum. Its curator Wang Limei flew to Mexico last year to select exhibits from Simon's private collection of more than three thousand art works. Wang said at the show's opening ceremony on Friday that she was touched by Mr. Simon's generosity after he allowed her to choose whatever she wanted for the exhibition.

Aesthetic rigor and careful selection, as well as the unique personality and tastes of the collection's owner, are characteristics that define the Perez Simon collection.

Among its particular traits are themes of female beauty, nature, and scenes from daily life that juxtapose earthy pleasures with the fleeting nature of existence. A fascination with the use of light and color can also be observed, principally in the transition from academic painting to modern art.

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