Liu Haisu was born in 1896 in Changzhou, Jiangsu province. He showed a talent for drawing at age 6 and when he was 13, he traveled to Shanghai in search of an art school in which to study. He found no such school so he continued on his own, copying paintings by Velazquez and Goya he discovered in museums. In 1912, Liu Haisu established the Shanghai Academy of Drawing and Painting, acknowledged as the first fine arts school in China. Becoming a recognized arts educator, Liu Haisu struggled to introduce human models in art classes and wrote numerous magazine articles and books about the importance of integrating western painting techniques with Chinese traditional theories about painting. In 1952, Liu Haisu served as President of the East China Fine Arts Training School and in 1954, as President of the Nanjing Institute of Fine Arts. Throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s, Liu Haisu exhibited his work in Europe. In the 1940’s he held exhibitions in Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia in efforts to raise money for the Anti-Japanese War. Today, he is recognized as a pioneer in Chinese art education and he is known as one of the fathers of Chinese modernism. In 1995, the Shanghai Liu Haisu Art Gallery was established in honor of his long career in the arts. It houses not only a fine collection of Liu Haisu’s paintings, but his own private collection of early Chinese oil paintings.
Sunrise at West Lake, 1928
Oil on Canvas
23 5/8" x 29" (60cm x 73 1/2cm)
About this work
This is a particularly good example of a late 1920’s work by Liu Haisu, who at that time in his career was concerned with integrating modern western painting techniques with Chinese practices. West Lake in Hangzhou has inspired many Chinese artists because of its natural beauty and the unusual quality of light on the lake at sunrise and sunset. While this work may be reminiscent of Post Impressionist paintings by Cezanne or Fauvist examples by Matisse, clearly it contains brushstrokes that could have come from a traditional Chinese landscape. The near-far composition also uses aspects of Chinese landscape art.