The Guan Shanyue Art Gallery is dedicated to the works of Guan Shanyue, a master of the Lingnan school of Chinese painting.
Lingnan south of the ranges was a Tang dynasty province covering modern Guangdong and Guangxi provinces. It is now a poetic name for Guangdong. The Lingnan school of Chinese painting was started by the master Gao Jianfu. In the early days of the 20th century, while studying in Japan, he became heavily influenced by western painting and by the Japanese Nihonga School, itself in debt to western painting. He studied western perspective, light and shade, portrait painting etc and applied them to his Chinese style art.
The Lingnan School always had revolutionary associations. Gao himself was an early member of Sun Yat-sen’s Tongmeng Hui or Alliance Society, and later in the 1920s when Sun formed the Canton revolutionary government, he invited Gao to join the government as a member of the KMT Industrial Art Commission and head of the Provincial Art Schools.
Ultimately the influence of the Lingnan School was limited to Guangdong. When half of China was under Japanese occupation, the school’s Japanese origins proved to be a terminal liability. Rivals in more traditional Chinese painting schools referred to it as cheap Japanese imports actually, in their eyes, the real issue was that it was more accessible to the public than western painting and therefore a more dangerous rival.
Guan Shanyue 1912 2000 was a student of Gao Jianfu and a recognized master of the Lingnan School. In 1933 he audited Gao Jianfu’s classes at Lingnan University and subsequently studied under Gao at his Chunshui Art Studio.
From then on he became an artist and art academic, firstly at the Guangzhou Art Academy and later at the Huanan and Zhongnan Arts Academies and the Guangzhou Institute of Fine Art. According to his biographies, he was a revolutionary sympathizer early on, and had participated in revolutionary anti-Japanese activities from Hong Kong during the war. This is certainly consistent with the sort of company he kept from the 1930s onwards, and in 1956 he joined the Communist Party. But this was not enough to save him from violent attacks by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution his official biography says that he was accused of being an anti-socialist poisonous weed and was struggled and sent to cadre school.
Guan was a prolific painter with a special interest in the development of Shenzhen. In 1993 he approached the Shenzhen City Government and offered to donate all his works to the people of Shenzhen. In 1997, Jiang Zemin opened the Gallery on his way to Hong Kong to officiate at the handover ceremonies.
The Gallery has a fine collection of Guan’s works. Because he was a senior arts bureaucrat, Guan knew which side his bread was buttered on and revolutionary themes predominate from a very early period. But the paintings are good, several levels above what one has come to expect from that unfortunate art school. We love his early works, particularly a 1944 one entitled How Professors Live Now, showing Guan, dressed in a suit and overcoat, sitting in a rustic house surrounded by firewood, cooking implements, his books and a cat.
Incidentally Guan Shanyue’s name which means moon over the passes comes from a famous Tang Dynasty poem by Li Bai lamenting exile fighting the Turks beyond the western passes.
The gallery also hosts periodic special exhibitions. The last one we saw was an excellent exhibition of paintings by new Shenzhen artists.
Entry is 10.
The gallery is situated in Hong Li Road next to the entrance to Lian Hua Park. Closest Metro is Shao Nian Gong . Line 4. The Exhibition is across Hong Li Road in the brown brick building.
Open 9 am to 5 pm Tuesday to Sunday. Closed Monday Address: 6026 Hong Li Rd. Futian 6026
Bus nos. 25,215,105
GUAN SHANYUE GALLERY SHENZHEN Photo Gallery
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