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Nicholas Watkins

(Emile Benoît)

(b Le Cateau-Cambrésis [now Le Cateau], nr Cambrai, Picardy, Dec 31, 1869; d Nice, Nov 3, 1954).

French painter, draughtsman, sculptor, printmaker, designer and writer. He came to art comparatively late in life and made his reputation as the principal protagonist of Fauvism, the first avant-garde movement at the turn of the century. He went on to develop a monumental decorative art, which was innovative both in its treatment of the human figure and in the constructive and expressive role accorded to colour. His long career culminated in a highly original series of works made of paper cut-outs, which confirmed his reputation, with Picasso, as one of the major artists of the 20th century.

Matisse was born in his grandparents’ home and grew up in the neighbouring village of Bohain-en-Vermandois, where his father’s general store had developed into a grain business. He worked first as a solicitor’s clerk in the local town of Saint-Quentin before taking a degree in law in Paris from October 1887 to August 1889, without apparently showing the slightest interest in art; on returning home he resumed work as a solicitor’s clerk. Bored by the routine of office life, he attended drawing classes at the Ecole Quentin Latour before going to work....

Article

Nianhua  

James Flath

[Chin.: “New Year pictures”]

Genre of popular woodblock prints known for their bold colors and folkloric content. Prior to the mid-20th century these prints were widely used throughout China to decorate the home, as calendars, and to conduct domestic rituals in advance of the lunar New Year festival.

The most common production method for nianhua uses three to five relief printing blocks. In this technique an outline block is used to print an image in monochrome, and additional blocks are then used to apply individual colors. Finally the prints may be touched up by hand. In some examples all colors are applied using brushes. The subject matter of nianhua is diverse. Although the variety of gods appearing in nianhua is virtually unlimited, domestic deities such as the Stove God, Door God, and the God of Wealth are common. The image of the Stove God in particular was believed to embody the deity and protect the household. The act of burning the print at the end of the year was traditionally intended to send the deity to Heaven, and its subsequent replacement was to welcome him back to the home. Themes of wealth, good fortune, and scholarly success leading to official promotion are popular, as are images relating to fertility and the birth of male children. Narratives scenes drawn from historical classics and the theater are among the most widely produced items in the genre. More rarely, ...

Article

Jean Selz

(b Paris, April 5, 1876; d Rueil-la-Gadelière, Eure-et-Loir, Oct 7, 1958).

French painter, printmaker, draughtsman and writer. His nature, character, tastes and way of life were in perfect harmony with the freedom, daring and violence of his painting. He was brought up in a musical environment: his father, of Flemish origin, was a violin teacher and his mother, from Lorraine, was a piano teacher. He studied music himself to quite a high standard and later played the double-bass (and sometimes the bass drum, a source of considerable pleasure) in his regimental band. His family had come to live at Le Vésinet near Paris, and he spent his childhood both there and later at Chatou on the Seine. From 1892 he began to take an interest in painting, though he worked as a mechanic and became a racing cyclist.

After his first marriage (to Suzanne Berly) Vlaminck gave up cycling and returned to music. He gave violin lessons and played the violin in popular orchestras and café-concerts in Paris. He also made his début as a journalist in the late 19th century and wrote articles for anarchist papers such as ...

Article

Sandy Ng

(b Yangzhou, 1895; d Paris, 1977).

Chinese painter and sculptor. Pan graduated from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and undertook further studies at the Accademia in Rome before bringing back her artistic training to China. She came from a poor family and was sold to a brothel in Anhui by her uncle following her parents’ death. Some sources suggest that she was a servant in the brothel, while others claim that she was forced into prostitution and attempted suicide more than once. Life improved when she met Pan Zanhua (?1885–1960), an open-minded government official. She eventually married him, adopting his surname, and moved to Shanghai. He recognized his wife’s artistic talent and encouraged her to study painting.

Pan acquired painting skills at the Shanghai Art Academy under the tutelage of the pioneering modernist Liu Haisu. Like many of her contemporaries, she in time found the domestic resources inadequate and went abroad to Europe to solidify her oil painting training and learn to sculpt. Nevertheless, she was not impressed with the academic methods taught at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and preferred styles outside the formal system, especially Fauvism whose leading exponent was Henri Matisse. Her works from this early period already displayed a penchant for bright colors, bold brushworks, acute observations, and female figures, including women of different races and classes....