THE ROOTS OF LINGNAN
THE HISTORY >>THE
The Qing dynasty closed China to maritime trade in 1757, just at the
moment when European nations were expanding their international commerce.
Guangzhou (Canton) was the only legal port for trade between China and the
outside world until 1843. This southeastern region, which includes modern
Guangdong province, was commonly referred to as Lingnan, and produced some
of the most important political thinkers of the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries, including Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao, who advocated
replacing the imperial system with a constitutional monarchy, and Sun
Yat-sen, who established China's first republic in 1911.
The development of a Cantonese manner of painting began in the nineteenth
century, but did not attain national visibility and a distinctive style
until the first part of the twentieth century. The leader of the Lingnan
School of painting was Gao Jianfu (1879-1950?), who joined the Alliance
Society (Tongmeng hui), founded by Sun Yat-sen in 1905 to overthrow the
emperor. After 1911 he devoted himself instead to a revolution in art. In
his painting, publications, and teaching, he promoted the development of a
New National Painting (xin guohua). He and his followers, most notably his
younger brother GAO Qifeng, combined the local style with elements of
Western and Japanese realist painting to create an art that they hoped would
be more accessible to the citizenry of China's new republic than the
literati painting of the past.