Sanyu arrived in Paris in 1921.
Hitherto unknown to Sanyu, the city represented an entirely new horizon, a new civilisation for the young artist.
Abandoning the academic constraints of drawing and painting, he turned to the more liberal instruction on offer at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière.
The experience must have been a real eye-opener for Sanyu, who thus discovered life drawing from nude models, which was very daring for a Chinese painter at the time.
Sanyu was delighted by the new exercise, finding the morphology of female nudes fascinating.
“The beauty of their Western bodies, with their generous hips and luscious faces, immortalised by the painters of the 18 th and 19 th centuries, inspired Sanyu to create forms that he further amplified and subjected to his whims…” explains Sylvie Buisson. “It became his favourite exercise to think like a calligrapher while at the same time knowing the very essence of the Western body by heart. He portrayed it as a living, moving, sensual plant. The nude had roots, while his were gradually driving down into French soil.”
Sanyu was a regular visitor to the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, which provided him with a good way of socialising.
He observed his fellow artists attentively in the studio.
A quick drawer, Sanyu had plenty of time to sketch them – to him, they were as enigmatic as the models posing before them.
These Westerners must have struck him as immense, their limbs, hands and feet appearing gigantic in his drawings.
Depicted from the back, the front and the side, they form part of the picturesque decor of the Académie de la Grande Chaumière.
These drawings by Sanyu, immortalised moments that stand as a testament to a bygone era, have now been brought back to life.
The exhibition Sanyu face aux modèles is the first part of a trilogy dedicated to the famous Chinese painter,
presented at the Diane de Polignac Gallery.
Some twenty works on paper – in ink, pencils and watercolour – produced during the 1920s are presented in the
Only female models are on show here – nudes and female artists from the Académie de la Grande Chaumière.
All of the works in the exhibition come from the collection of Jean-Claude Riedel, Sanyu’s long-standing dealer.
The exhibition Sanyu face au modèle is accompanied by a book by the same name, translated into English and Chinese, published by Still and available in bookshops from 11 September 2023.
The texts written by Sylvie Buisson, Art historian and expert on Léonard-Tsuguharu Foujita, and Philippe Cinquini, Art historian, highlight Sanyu’s work.