Wu Guanzhong (1919 – 2010) is known as the father of Chinese Expressionism. He was born in Yixing, Jiangsu Province, China. He was a graduate of the National Art College in 1942, and studied oil painting in Paris from 1947-1950.
When Wu returned to China from France in 1950, he taught Western art to his students at the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing until 1953. He then taught art at Tsinghua University in Beijing 1953 – 1964.
Due to criticism that Wu had been influenced by Western bourgeois ideas, in 1966, during the beginning of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Wu was told he could not paint or write about art. To avoid persecution and possible execution by the rampaging teenage Red Guard, he burned many of his paintings.
In 1970, he was separated from his wife and spent three years working at hard labor in the countryside as part of Mao’s re-education program.
After Mao died in 1976 with China now led by Deng Xiaoping, Wu was allowed to paint again. He had his first professional solo exhibition in 1979, and succeed as a professional artist in the 1980s.
During his life as an art teacher and a professional artist, his goal was to introduce French modernism to the Chinese world of art while preserving China’s cultural identity.
Wu combined his French training and Chinese background to develop a semiabstract style to depict scenes from the Chinese landscape. Before he died, Wu had solo exhibitions in major art galleries and museums around the world, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Taipei, Korea, England and the US.
In 1992, Wu was honored by the French Ministry of Culture. He died at age 90.
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