by Jennifer Cody Epstein
I was thrilled when this book arrived in the mail for me from the author: it felt so exquisite in my hands with the sleek, glossy cover and smooth creamy pages. The cover is just beautiful. And the story really intrigued me. The Painter from Shanghai is a novel based on the life of Pan Yuliang, a post-impressionist painter from China who spent her early years in a brothel, having been sold into prostitution at the age of fourteen by her opium-addicted uncle. Half of the book describes her life of oppression there. Eventually she attracted the attention of a government official, who took her out of the brothel to become his concubine and later made her his second wife. He encouraged her to study and grow as a person. And that is what I felt this novel was really about: a woman's struggle to find herself against all odds. Yuliang was one of very few female students at the Shanghai Art Academy. She excelled there, went on to study art in France and Rome, then returned to her native country when it was struggling towards revolution. Her depiction of female nudes (many of them self-portraits) was not well-met in China, and a disastrous public reaction to one of her gallery openings nearly convinced her to cease painting. I am awed at the strength of this woman, who found her realization as an artist in a very controversial fashion, during troubled times. I really enjoyed reading about her time spent in the studio, discussing art with professors and fellow students, learning the methods of painting. It is very inspiring. You can view some of Yuliang's paintings at the author's website.
Rating: 3/5 ........ 416 pages, 2008
More reviews at:
A Work in Progress
Diary of an Eccentric