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'Father of deer' and painter of history

FORMER French President Jacques Chirac once praised ink-wash painter Li Yansheng as "agreat modern artist with extraordinary talent."

Some of Li's milestone works over the past four decades are part of his solo exhibition underway at the Shanghai Art Museum through October 7.

Born in 1943 in Zhongshan, Guangdong Province, Li graduated from the China Academy of Fine Arts and studied further at the School of Chinese Painting at the Central Academy of Fine Arts.

As some Chinese masters specialize in certain subjects on rice paper - Qi Baishi's shrimp, Xu Beihong's horse, Wu Zuoren's camel - Li is known for his vivid deer and is consider the "father of deer" in art circles.

Some of his deer paintings are given as diplomatic gifts.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who received one of his paintings, said the "works are conceived very exquisitely."

But Li also distinguishes himself from other masters of ink-wash painting through his focus on history and Chinese people.

Realistic painting on rice paper is difficult as the genre is traditionally two-dimensional and colors are limited to shades of ink.

Li has challenged these assumptions.

The highlight of the exhibition is the scroll "Soul of China" (1997), 2.8 meters high and 65 meters long. The work is regarded as a masterpiece of historical painting with inestimable artistic value.

The scroll features scenes of major moments in the history of modern China, including the Burning of Opium Stocks in Humen and the Wuxu Reform Movement.

Though Li is one of only a few artists to receive subsidies from the State Council, he does not rest on his laurels. In 2005, he created a series of paintings of mine workers and peasants, which showed the spirit of ordinary Chinese people.

Date: through October 7, 9am-5pm

Address: 325 Nanjing Rd W.


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