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Wu Zuoren's Art Show Lauded in Paris

Acclaimed Chinese artist Wu Zuoren (1908-97) is no stranger to many French art-lovers.


Back in 1947, Wu held solo exhibitions in France. In 1987, Wu and wife Xiao Shufang, who is also a painter, staged a joint exhibition in Paris which was warmly welcomed by the French people.


And now Wu's works are being embraced again in Paris, thanks to an exhibition which was unveiled in the city last month.


Organized by China's Ministry of Culture, the City Council of Paris and Musee Cernuschi, the two-month-long show is a part of the ongoing China-France Culture Year, which is running in France from October until July 2004.


On display are 37 works by Wu including oil paintings, water-colors, sketches and ink paintings, which have all been provided by the Wu Zuoren International Fine Arts Foundation.


In particular, the ink paintings Wu completed during the 1970s and 80s are the highlights of the show.


Most of them feature the natural scenery and characteristic folk culture in western China, according to Hou Yimin, director of Wu Zuoren International Fine Arts Foundation, who is also a former student of Wu.


Wu once traveled to China's western regions in 1943, which brought great changes in his painting style.


"It was the trip that made him focus his eyes on Chinese ink paintings," said Hou.


Hou was pleased to take his teacher's works back to Paris, a city to which Wu would return time and time again throughout his life.


A researcher from Musee Cernuschi said that Wu had enjoyed great popularity in France. The museum has three of Wu's paintings in its own collection.


After visiting the exhibition, some French artists said Wu's works actually show a good blend between eastern and western styles.


The organizers hoped that the exhibition would be a chance for French people to enjoy colorful Chinese paintings, appreciate their cultural value and get a better understanding of Wu and Chinese traditional painting.


Born in Suzhou of East China's Jiangsu Province in 1908, Wu started his art studies at the Department of Fine Arts of Shanghai University in 1927.


Recommended by Xu Beihong (1895-1953), one of China's most famous modern artists, Wu went to Europe to learn Western contemporary arts. In 1935, he graduated from Belgium's Royal Institute of Fine Arts, where he was honored as a Laureate Student.


He returned to China in 1935 and taught at the Central University, which was then located in Nanjing of Jiangsu. His works began to be known in the West when he held painting exhibitions in Britain, France and Switzerland in 1947.


Wu was adept in oil painting, Chinese painting and calligraphy. His style was clean, precise, clear and smooth since he absorbed the strength of the discipline of oil painting and blended it with Chinese paintings. His works are natural, implicit, but with precise shapes.


His work "Grazing on Tibetan Grassland," which employed the traditional style of brush work, won the Gold Medal at the Paris Grand Palace Exhibition in 1982.


Due to his artistic achievements and his great endeavors in promoting Chinese painting in the West, he was also named to the French literary and art order of honor in 1985, and in 1988 he was honored with a title from a top level Belgian royal honorary order.


In recent years, Wu's works have been well-received in overseas markets.


One of Wu's oil paintings - "Battlefield Chrysanthemum All the More Fragrant" - garnered an international record price of 3.52 million yuan (US$425,634) at an auction in Beijing this summer.


The painting, which is 175.5 centimeters long and 118 centimeters wide, was painted in 1977 in memory of late Chinese leader Mao Zedong, who had passed away one year earlier.


(China Daily November 19, 2003)


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