photo of lu yanshao

when I first met Lu Yanshao 陸儼少

In the late 1980s, I had the chance to study at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. Traditionally, on Saturday mornings, the Academy invited well-known painters of classical Chinese painting to demonstrate their way of painting. The purpose of the exercise was to give the students an insight into topics such as the structure of the picture, and brush and ink techniques of recognized painters. These were often unforgettable events.

Twice the academy responded to a suggestion from me and since the painters I suggested were from Xi An and Shanghai, it was very friendly that they picked up my suggestion, since normally painters from Beijing were invited. Not least because invitations to painters from other provinces involved costs for travel, accommodation, and meals.

The landscape painter Lu Yanshao

A painter who remains one of my favorites to this day was Lù Yǎnshào. At that time he already had a reputation in Shanghai, but the Beijingers were too fixated on painters from the capital to really notice him. When Lù Yǎnshào actually came, more teachers and students were interested in him, and the number of participants in the demonstration was relatively high.

I would like to start by saying that at this point I was still relatively at the beginning and until then had thought that Lù Yǎnshào‘’s powerful, expressionist pictures, which are bursting with dynamism, had been painted with great vigor and corresponding speed.

Paper had been spread out, ink rubbed in and Lù Yǎnshào came into the room – a thoughtful, taciturn man of advanced age. He sat down and began his picture. But contrary to what I had expected, he set his strokes carefully and very, very slowly (so he didn’t even finish half of his picture).

When there was a long pause between 2 strokes, a teacher from the academy could be heard: “Master Lù, Master Lù!”. Lù Yǎnshào winced and began to draw another stroke again: he actually had fallen asleep while painting.

landscape painting by Lù Yǎnshào.

I made this photo of Lu Yanshao on the day of his demonstration at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.

Lù Yǎnshào at the Central Academy in Beijing
the painter Lu Yanshao 陸儼少 © friedrich zettl

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