Belgium Art Center hosts Sanyu exhibition

Wang Jie
The Chinese-French painter worked in obscurity, but now he's recognized as a master of the contemporary art world.
Wang Jie

A special exhibition of 16 paintings created by Sanyu (1901-1966), a Chinese-French painter who today is recognized as a master in the Western world, opens to the public on Friday at the Belgium Art Center (190 Yueyang Road).

The artworks, on loan from the collection of Wang Jiyuan, were created by Sanyu from the 1920s to 1940s.

Born in Sichuan Province, Sanyu’s family owned one of the largest silk-weaving mills in the country at the time. After studying in Shanghai, Sanyu visited Japan in 1919 and later France where he decided to settle. 

From 1923, he set up a base in the Montparnasse area and met several avant-garde artists, members of the Ecole de Paris. Among the first generation of Chinese artists who went to France, Sanyu immersed himself in French culture. Unlike his compatriots Lin Fengmian and Xu Beihong, he chose to take up residency in Paris.

Sanyu’s life was filled with ups and downs, and the one-time Chinese “playboy” was later a poor artist. When he died in 1966, only a handful of Parisian collectors knew of him.

However, freedom was what the artist pursued all his life. He showed a particular interest in depicting nudity and began painting nudes on canvas from 1929.

Starting in the 1990s, Sanyu’s reputation in China and Southeast Asia started to grow. Several of his canvases have already sold for millions of US dollars in the Asian market.

Belgium Art Center hosts Sanyu exhibition

“Sitting Nude," ink and color on paper created by Sanyu in 1928

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