Oil on Canvas
A fan kwae painting of a Chinese family eating on a hilltop overlooking the Pearl river estuary.
Stable, some chipping restored.
THE CHINNERY SCHOOL
AND THE PAINTERS OF MACAU
There are a number of Chinese artists of the Chinnery school whose works are attributable by style.
Amongst these are Spoilum, Lamqua, Youqua, Sunqua and Tinqua.
LAMQUA became the most established and well-known artist catering to the export trade.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF
FAN KWAE PAINTING IN SOUTH CHINA
New Year pictures - "nianhua"
As the Chinese artisans who produced the ceramics for exportation grew more familiar with European conventions of perspective drawing, another form of artistic expression was benefiting from this new idiom.
During the 18th century, in towns such as Yangzhou and Suzhou in lower Yangtze, the industry of nianhua or New Year pictures grew apace.
Every year, new pictures were published on a variety of themes, some easily identifiable scenes from theatre or literature, while others were pictures of popular religious figures and even beautiful women.
It was normal practice throughout China to refresh the decoration on the walls of homes at the start of each new year. This fashion was exported on a large scale to Japan, where it became a more sophisticated art form when Japanese artists became well-known as members of the ukiyo-e movement.
Although they were also products meant for exportation, these illustrations employed European drawing techniques, especially in the depiction of human figures, and were mainly aimed at tempting Chinese customers who, just like Europeans, enjoyed what was new, fashionable and different.
Western Influences - the "China Trade"
As commercial contacts increased with Western traders, a new type of illustration emerged during the 19th century.
It was in no way related with the central power in Peking and so it was free from what was considered the usual canons of good taste. It was linked with the very places contact was made with Europeans, that is to say, the ports.
These illustrations were made for the visitors and traders from Europe and America with business interests in Canton and Macau, and later Hong Kong, who wanted to take keepsakes back home to show their families and friends what China was like.
It was a type of illustration produced in large quantities in studios between the two opium wars - in 1842 and 1856 - and is nowadays known as the China Trade.
Skilled Cantonese artists designed these works in workshops in Canton and Macau.
They used a variety of themes such as local landscapes, views of the ports, people wearing typical Qing Dynasty costumes, exotic fruit, flowers and butterflies, junks, birds and even interiors, some of opium-smokers.
From about 1774 onwards, they included oil portraits of Europeans.
One of these British artists happened to get off a boat anchored off Macau on 23 September 1825.
The painter of Macau
When George Chinnery (1774-1852) set foot on the Portuguese-administered territory, he had already lived through a set of experiences that cannot but produce a strange and puzzling sense of destiny when we pause to think what he was to become.
The man who set foot on the land of exiles and potential converts had been born and bred in London.
He had lived and worked in Dublin, where a relative of his was member of Parliament, and there met his future wife. He later returned to London, apparently as a result of a broken marriage, and then joined a brother of his in Madras, India.
He left for Calcutta in 1807 to paint the portrait of the judge in Bengal. Afterwards, he spent four years in Dacca and returned to Calcutta in 1812.
He later moved to Serampore, the Danish colony near Calcutta, in order to escape creditors but had to flee again because of a 30,000-rupee debt leaving 50 unfinished portraits.
Chinnery was to find a pleasant refuge in the welcoming town in southern China, and as far as his finances were concerned, he seemed to have found clients for his painting.
The increasingly lucrative trade with China was still based in Macau. The head office of the Companhia das ═ndias Orientais (East India Company) was in the Jardin de Cam§es in Macau, and the English painter intended to work for the moneyed traders. And work he did, with uneven financial results.
What was to render his work truly notable were his drawings sketched in pencil, ink or water-colour. He executed even in the simplest of sketches both swiftly and delicately and this conferred an appealing poetic meaning on all his work. It allows the keen observer to complete the fragment he observes through the eyes of his own imagination. His work was to prove essential in preserving the visual history of Macau and to help us understand what life was like at that time.
The Chinnery School, in the sense that people learnt through him and followed his example rather than a school as such, included a number of people two of whom were especially responsible for spreading it.
One was a Macanese called Marciano Baptista (1826-96), who learnt European painting techniques from Chinnery.
Baptista had always lived and worked among the Chinese and contributed towards raising the awareness of European artistic techniques in southern China.
The other belonged to a family of painters who painted works for exportation, and as was the custom in Chinese families, he built up and expanded the family business.
His name was Guan Qiaochang (1801-1860), but he is best known by his nickname, Lamqua.
The painter of elegant faces
A French traveller called Paul ╔mile Forgues, described a visit he once paid to Lamqua's studio on China Street in Canton.
A sign right at the entrance announced: Lamqua, English and Chinese painter.
Another traveller, however, with slightly different recollections, thought it said: Lamqua, painter of elegant faces.
In any case, everybody agreed on Lamqua's surprising business organisation. His studio was in a three-storey building in which the shop was on the first floor and his workshop on the second, where he worked alongside his various assistants.
His clients included local traders, whether Portuguese or Europeans of other nationalities.
The price of the works depended on the style.
A Chinese-style portrait cost 8 pounds, while an English one was 10 pounds. He enjoyed considerable international success, and although he never left China, Lamqua's oil paintings were shown at the Royal Academy of London between 1835 and 1845, New York in 1841, Boston in 1851 and Philadelphia in 1851 and 1860.
Yet nothing hinted at Lamqua's future success when George Chinnery first came across him as a boy working as a servant in the house Chinnery lived in when he arrived in Macau.
This was the home of Christopher, a wealthy agent for the East India Company, and where the boy revealed the talent Chinnery encouraged.
Chinnery could have had no idea that one day his disciple would become his competitor -and a highly successful one.
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