A Defiant Brush: Su Renshan and the Politics of Painting in Early 19th-Century Guangdong
- About the Book
As the Opium War unfolded in Guangdong Province, the painter Su Renshan (1814– c.1850) exploded onto the art scene with a bold, paradigm-turning new voice. A Defiant Brush takes a fresh look at this under appreciated artist in the context of a nascent Chinese modernism.
In 1839 Guangzhou shifted from a cosmopolitan trading center with a diverse art world into a place of violence. During the following decade, one voice of discontent and defiance rang outabove all others: Su Renshan’s. His provocative, uncompromising, and sometimes ugly paintings berate Confucius for his hypocrisy. He turned his brush trace into graphic lines that mimic the printed page, and he depicted women as alternative exemplars of amoral intelligentsia. Yeewan Koon’s close readings of Su Renshan’s paintings within the rich contextual history of art in Guangdong Province reveal how the trauma of war prompted a re-evaluation of social and political values and the moral responsibility of a scholar-artist.