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The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody…

The Painter from Shanghai

by Jennifer Cody Epstein

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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
After finishing this book, I had to look up some of Pan Yuliang's paintings, especially her controversial nudes. I really enjoyed this novel about the life of a female Chinese painter, who was sold into prostitution as child but nevertheless managed to obtain an education and studied art in France and Rome, realizing her talent as a painter. This novel also provides a fascinating description of the painter's native China during a turbulent period. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Dec 14, 2011 |
This was not bad. It was actually pretty good in the first half. The first half is about Pan when she is a child and her drug addict uncle sells her to a prostitution house. Pan makes a good friend and reader's will see the impact this girl friend had on the rest of Pan's life. I found the first half very touching and intimate. It had a "Memoirs of a Geisha" type feel to it. After the loss of her good friend, Pan meets an important man that decides to rescue her. She becomes his concubine and thankfully for her, he is a man open minded enough to allow her to pursue her painting. After a few rough spots and struggles including the starving artist phase, she becomes one of very few female artists in China. However, this is when it gets boring. The last half of the book is mostly about art and very little about Pan. There is also a major injection of politics in the last half regarding China, Japan, Italy, and France. I simply scanned over what bored me and got back to what I thought was the "good parts" or drama. I did get the impression Pan was a bit selfish in some ways and I found it odd that she was always painting herself naked, but I cannot claim to understand artists. Good book, but I would not read it again. ( )
  Soniamarie | Feb 16, 2010 |
I never heard of the Chinese painter Pan Yuliang (1899-1977) until I picked up Jennifer Cody Epstein’s The Painter From Shanghai, but it’s easy to see why Epstein would want to paint the story of a woman who shocked pre-Communist China with nude self-portraits reminiscent of Cezanne. Little is known about Yuliang, other than her status as a prostitute, concubine, and Parisian artist, and Epstein does a superb job showing what her life might have been like.

Epstein shows Yuliang’s rise to fame in the art world, uniquely combining techniques from the East and West, as well as the controversy that arises when her nudes are on display. She tackles the cultural norms of the day, particularly the sensitive issue of women art students attending classes with nude models, along with the political turmoil affecting China in the 1920s and 1930s. The novel never once falls flat, with Epstein carrying the reader seamlessly through each transition in Yuliang’s life. She brings Yuliang’s art and the creative process to life in such a way that you don’t need to be an art aficionado to appreciate Yuliang’s work.

Full review on Diary of an Eccentric ( )
2 vote annaeccentric | Jul 17, 2009 |
I am always fascinated by stories that are based on real people and The Painter From Shanghai is a very strong example. I feel like it would be harder to write a story where there are some facts involved, you can only know so many facts so you have to create the story in such a way that you can string the actual facts together to make sense. That takes talent.

It was really empowering to read the story of Pan Yuliang. From being sold into prostitution to attempting the close to impossible to achieve her dreams of being an artist and a "woman artist" at that. Pan Yuliang couldn't and doesn't give up. I loved seeing her evolve and turn into a strong and confident woman. She was so meek and innocent when her uncle sold her into prostitution and to see the woman she becomes is amazing.

It was insane to me to read what a struggle there was for Pan Yuliang to be an artist and create the art she wanted to create. Nowadays at least in America most people wouldn't bat an eyelash at a nude portrait but in Pan Yuliang's time it was beyond scandalous. It's just so crazy to me. If I had to face that kind of abuse to just create art I'm sure I would have given up. We are so lucky that we don't have to deal with that in 2009 in America.

While the art related parts were obviously my favorite I really enjoyed the book as a whole. All the people that come in and out of Pan Yuliang's life to either help or harm her, they were all a part of what shaped her in the end. Pan Zanhua, the man that becomes her husband and sort of guardian is an interesting character as well, watching him grow and change with the politics of the time. I also really liked the passages when Pan Yuliang went to live with Pan Zanhua and his first wife. Really interesting.

Overall a really interesting story based on a real life! ( )
1 vote mint910 | Jun 28, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393065286, Hardcover)

Reminiscent of Memoirs of a Geisha, a re-imagining of the life of Pan Yuliang and her transformation from prostitute to post-Impressionist.

Down the muddy waters of the Yangtze River and into the seedy backrooms of "The Hall of Eternal Splendor," through the raucous glamour of prewar Shanghai and the bohemian splendor of 1920s Paris, and back to a China ripped apart by civil war and teetering on the brink of revolution: this novel tells the story of Pan Yuliang, one of the most talented—and provocative—Chinese artists of the twentieth century.

Jennifer Cody Epstein's epic brings to life the woman behind the lush, Cezannesque nude self-portraits, capturing with lavish detail her life in the brothel and then as a concubine to a Republican official who would ultimately help her find her way as an artist. Moving with the tide of historical events, The Painter from Shanghai celebrates a singularly daring painting style—one that led to fame, notoriety, and, ultimately, a devastating choice: between Pan's art and the one great love of her life.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:06:26 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A tale inspired by the life of pre-war Shanghai artist Pan Yuliang traces her life in a brothel before she becomes a concubine to a Republican official who ultimately helps her to find her way as an artist.

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W.W. Norton

Two editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393065286, 0393335313

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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