Literature: The Painter from Shanghai
The Painter From Shanghai
, published in 2008, is Jennifer Cody Epstein's debut novel. It is a fictionalized biography of the Real Life
Chinese painter Pan Yuliang. Orphaned at a young age, she was taken in by her uncle who, in order to sustain his opium habit, sold her into prostitution at age 13.
After a a few years as a teenage prostitute, she was rescued from a predictably grim fate by a city official named Pan Zanhua who bought her from her madam and took her up as a concubine. She signed up for arts classes in Shanghai
, and eventually developed enough talent to start out as a painter. However, she courted scandal by painting nudes, something even more offensive in interwar China than in Europe; with nobody volunteering to model for her, she would sneak in the public baths to draw sketches of women bathers, and eventually settled for nude self-portraits.
She won a coveted prize that enabled her to study further in Paris
, then Rome, and she won several awards in both cities. Returning to China after several years, she found herself targeted by the Blue Shirts, a right-wing paramilitary organization with ties to the Nationalist regime. She left again for good just before the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War
and lived out her days in France.
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