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Patrick Conner

Chinese painter for the Western export market. The artist known to Westerners as Spoilum – his Chinese name is uncertain – is first recorded in 1774, as the painter of a ‘reverse-glass’ portrait of a Western merchant. By the following decade he was painting in oils on canvas. Oil paint was an unfamiliar medium in the context of the Chinese pictorial tradition, and its use stemmed from Western influences. However, the Cantonese export painters of the late 18th century rapidly acquired a facility in this medium and, in the case of Spoilum, an individuality that could be regarded, in Western terms, as evidence of original genius....