Asian artists in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century
At the beginning of the 20th century, Paris was the scene of a real cultural exchange on an artistic level, led by its salons and the universal exhibitions. The wealth of public collections, the profusion of free academies, such as the Académie Julian (attended by the Venezuelan artist Boggio) and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière (attended by the Brazilian Monteiro and the Chinese artist Sanyu) attracted artists the world over who wished to complete their studies there. The vibrant creative energy of various Parisian neighbourhoods also encouraged this melting pot of nationalities such as Montmartre, first and foremost: a district that Picasso was particularly fond of, living as he did at the Bateau-Lavoir, and Place de Clichy, where Modigliani would wander around. After that, the Montparnasse district on the right bank of the Seine became popular, where Chagall and a large number of refugee artists from eastern European countries lived in the artists’ residence known as La Ruche. Meanwhile, the Falguière district was home to Soutine and Foujita. This heady mix of origins, as well as the artistic, technical and stylistic exchanges, resulted in the emergence of new trends.
When the Chinese Empire fell during the revolution of 1911, the emergence of a republican regime enabled the gradual introduction of Western thinking into art. This influence began with the awareness of a French presence on the Asian continent, through first colonisation and then the confrontation of armed forces.
It brought about a major change in traditional Asian art, now revived by the introduction of European artistic techniques. As artistic movements began to proliferate after the war and throughout the 20th century, the cultural influence of Paris continued to attract many Asian artists.
Though some only stayed in Europe for a while before returning to their home country, many, like Lin Fengmian, came back often, or settled there permanently, notably Yan Pei Ming, Chu Teh-Chun, Zao Wou-Ki, as well as Thi Luu, Le Pho, Mai Trung Thu and Vu Cao Dam.
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