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Paintings by China's late 'king' of film
By Wang Jie

ZHAO Dan (1915-1980) was one of China's most famous early actors, sometimes called China's "film king."

Not only was he an actor but, unknown to most people, he also excelled in traditional Chinese ink-wash painting.

An exhibition of his works is underway at the Liu Haisu Museum in Shanghai's Hongqiao area, along with canvases painted by his daughter Zhao Qing, the first generation of China's "dancing artists" since 1949. The show is organized by the museum and Westlake Art Club.

Zhao once studied at a local art academy where he was tutored by Liu Haisu and Pan Tianshou, both big names in China's modern art history.

Although Zhao finally chose cinema as his career, he was always dedicated to fine art and during his late years found emotional release in painting, according to his daughter.

His devotion to art played a part in saving him from torture during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76) when many of his film peers committed suicide because cinema was considered decadent.

After the "cultural revolution," Zhao published several art albums, which were praised by art circles. Some critics lamented that his film celebrity outshone his considerable painting talent.

Zhao's daughter is also a versatile artist who studied dancing as a child and performed in national dance troupes that toured more than 20 countries. She was voted vice chairman of the Chinese Dancers Association for her contributions to dance.

Like her father, she also pursued painting, oil painting.

The ongoing exhibition contains 50 canvas in which she uses brilliant colors and gives them an exotic feel. Her work "Mother and Son" reveals her strong technique, as well as passion.

In her painting titled "Life," she depicts a young girl holding a red silk ribbon running into a forest. "That could be a portrait of me," she says. "As a dancer, one can't dance forever on the stage. But I extend my dream on the stage into another form of art."

Date: Through September 23, 9am-5pm

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