The artist colony in Jinshan County is about two hours outside of Shanghai.
It is housed in a one-story, multi-wing building that looks like a
community recreation center and in fact functions in that capacity for
many citizens. Peasant painters in Jinshan County get their painting
supplies at the art center and some actually paint in studios at the art
center. Many artists, however, paint at home at night after working all
day in the fields.
Artists' paintings are sold through the art center and through its
connections in other parts of China. For example, paintings from Jinshan
County can be found in galleries in Hong Kong and at the
government-sponsored Centers for Culture and Arts in Shanghai and Beijing.
Artists are allowed to earn a portion of the proceeds from the sales of the
paintings to supplement their farming income.
Regardless of composition or theme of paintings from Jinshan, there is a
strong common element. The paintings depict life as colorful, happy scenes
- which sharply contrasts with their often drab and arduous realities.
There is a distinct look to Jinshan paintings, among all the painters -- to
the extent that it is difficult to identify one artist's work from another.
Many times, paintings are not signed or chopped, making artist
identification virtually impossible. Some of the most famous artists'
works are identifiable, however, especially those of Cao Xiuwen and Zhang
Xingying. When we know the artist name, we indicate it along with the
description of the painting below.
Paintings tend to cluster around
celebrations and events such as marriage,
holidays, and seasons, as discussed below.
||There are many traditions in the Chinese peasants' lives that relate to
marriage, as in any culture. Several paintings in our collection depict
some of these traditions. In "Groom's Procession" by Lee Chou-Ying, the groom's family and friends carry the groom to
the wedding ceremony, along with gifts for the bride's family and the new
household. The procession makes its way through the forest, celebrating
the occasion with horns and cymbals. The unusual colors in the spreading
tree mark the festive nature of the occasion. Even the trees seem to
"Wedding Day" by Cao
Xiumen, everyone in the village celebrates the wedding day, bringing gifts and
excitement to the new household. The painting brims with energy created by
the brilliance of color and movement in the composition.
Chinese New Years
New Years in an important holiday for peasants in Mainland China, and as a
result, is the subject of many paintings. In "New Year's
Masks" artist Zhang Xingying captures the playfulness of the
celebration in the masks and lanterns of the revelers. The painting
literally glows with the festive excitement of the subjects.
Other depictions are seen in paintings
"A Snowy New Year", "The Temple at New
and "Dragon Parade". In all of these
paintings, the subjects carry lanterns, cymbals and drums as part of the
The Temple at New
"Basket of Good Fortune" the artist presents symbols of wishing good fortune for the new
year. An interesting sidebar, the artist who created this painting was in
her 90s when she painted it. She was also an accomplished paper-cut
artist, which is the art of cutting paper into intricate designs. The
influence of the papercut medium is seen in her painting composition.