Sanyu born 14 October 1901 in Nanchong, Sichuan Province, was a Chinese-French painter. The family’s wealth (Dehe Silk Factory) allowed Sanyu to be schooled at home which included calligraphy lessons and painting lessons. In 1931, he travelled to Paris with Xu Beihong and later to Berlin. After two years in Berlin, Sanyu returned to Paris in 1923, to register his study with Academie de la Grande Chaumiere, exploring lines on human form. He has over 2000 ink and pencil drawings of nudes and figures.
The financial supports became irregular due to the downturn in the silk business back home. Sanyu engaged Henri-Pierre Roche as his dealer for his artworks. Over two years, Roche collected 111 paintings and 600 drawings by Sanyu. But Sanyu’s constant demands for money became an emotional liability that Roche decided to drop the relationship in 1932.
Despite the sour note on which their relationship ended. Roche had encouraged Sanyu to experiment with printmaking as a means of reaching a wider public at a lower cost. In prints, Sanyu found that he could demonstrate the same sensitivity to economy of line as his drawings, using drypoint, an intaglio technique. Drypoint worked particularly well for Sanyu, the small size of the plates lent an intimacy with the viewer and the fines lines conveyed the essence of his simplicity and skillful drawings.
All the sketching and drawing during his eight years in Paris served to prepare Sanyu for his eventual foray into oil painting. His earliest oil painting is dated 1929. By the early1930s Sanyu was fully committed to oil painting, never revisiting printmaking.
In 1948, Sanyu travelled to New York and met Robert Frank. Frank organized an exhibition for Sanyu in New York but none of the paintings sold. Disillusioned, Sanyu decided to return to Paris leaving all his paintings to Frank as a way of repaying him for supporting him during his two year stay in New York. As Frank’s career as a photographer took off, he never forgot his dear friend and kept his paintings with him wherever he moved over the next 50 years. In 1997, Frank sold these paintings and donated the proceeds to establish the Sanyu Scholarship Fund at Yale University to support Chinese students of art.
When Sanyu returned to Paris in 1950, even though the post-war art market was recovering, he still had little success in selling his paintings. He managed to survive by painting furniture and doing some carpentry work for Chinese restaurants.
On 12 August 1966, Sanyu was found dead at his studio at 28 rue de la Sabliere, lying on his bed with a book propped against his chest. He did not turn the stove off properly and the gas leak has killed him in his sleep.
(Extracted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)