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A bridge from Paris to Canton

CHINESE by birth, Fan Tchun-pi became a recognized French artist after being a young and diligent student in Paris. Not until she was in her 30s and a teacher of Western art at Canton University in China did she begin studies in the classic Chinese ink-on-paper. Then, instead of accepting the custom of following one master and slavishly copying famous ancients, she sought to bend conventional Oriental concepts to include the Occidental idea of painting from life.

The result has been a charming realism that sustains even the most classical works and sparkles in the others. They may be done in oil, ink, or both.

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The paintings of Fan Tchun-pi have a poetic unity.

Portraits could not be more sincere or more true, and landscapes, whether stoic trees or Buddhist temples, demonstrate a heartfelt appreciation of the aesthetics of the two cultures.

A light touch and a delicate sensibility mingle the cosmic outlook of the East with the humanism of the West.

Gaiety, no, although there is a pleasant sense of exhilaration in viewing her pictures. Take, for instance, the portrait of another Chinese woman painter, Souen To-sseu, represented at the exciting moment of setting down on paper what has just been composed in her mind's eye. From the quiet, unself-conscious smile on her lovely face, the thought must have been a happy one. (Nothing can be as rewarding as creative work when things go right.)

The landscape ``First Snow on the Blue Mountains'' is muted. Brown, bare trees pose gracefully against blue mountains and a transparent sky across which white clouds still drift. Rocks and yellow-gold bushes have pushed through the snow that lingers in the foreground. Additional autumn color on the slopes adds depth to the composition.

Evidently the first snow was a light one. The scene is near Boston, the city that the artist has called home since 1958.

She has continued to exhibit widely and travel to many countries since moving to the United States, visiting her native China four times. During one sojourn there, she stayed for 13 months and painted more than 100 pictures, 40 of which were donated to the Chinese government and are now part of the national collections.

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For a long time the Mus'ee Cernuschi of the City of Paris has shown and collected Chinese painting, at first only the classical and now also the contemporary. In 1984, the museum presented 60 pictures by Fan Tchun-pi, one for each year since she first participated in the Salon des Artistes Franais.

The aim of the Cernuschi is to further the harmonious fusion of the ideals inherent in the arts of the Orient and the Occident. The directors of the museum see in the works of Fan Tchun-pi a bridge, with influences going in both directions. Moreover, her paintings are a delight to behold.

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