Shanghai School

A group of painters working primarily in Shanghai from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century. Although not a school in the Western sense, the painters associated with it shared subject-matter, styles, techniques, and the patronage of Shanghai merchants. The four Rens, of whom Ren Yi was the most influential and successful, formed the nucleus of the emerging school.

Quick Facts

Go Historic ID
17007
Names
Shanghai school
Hai pai Chinese (transliterated)
Shanghai Dutch

More Definitions

Refers to a group of painters working primarily in Shanghai from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century. Although not a school in the Western sense, the painters associated with it shared subject-matter, styles, techniques, and the patronage of Shanghai merchants. After the devastating Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864), four professional painters surnamed Ren moved to Shanghai: Ren Xiong (1820-1857), his brother Ren Xun (1835-1893) and his son Ren Yu (1853-1901) from Xiaoshan and the unrelated Ren Yi (1840-1896) from Hangzhou, both in Zhejiang province. The four Rens, of whom Ren Yi was the most influential and successful, formed the nucleus of the emerging school. Shanghai school painting was made to please its merchant patrons. The paintings, typically displayed in the merchants' offices and homes, were mostly decorative, and their subjects often contain auspicious symbolism pertaining to longevity, good fortune, or prosperity. The hanging scroll format was particularly popular, as was the folding fan format. The works typically feature bold coloration and accessible and everyday subject-matter such as figures, birds, and plants. Landscape usually had a minor role in Shanghai painting. Shanghai flower painting was popularized by Zhao Zhiqian (1829-1884), who is known for his large, decorative scrolls of flowers painted in broad brushstrokes of rich, opaque color. The Shanghai school attained its height in the early 20th century under Wu Changshi, arguably the best of the Shanghai artists.

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Bibliography

  1. 1.  The Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus, 300106504. The J. Paul Getty Trust.