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For Sanyu, floral still life were a major theme from the 1930s to the 1950s. His
repeated explorations of these floral arrangements and their symbolic meanings can be
seen in the great variety of his flower-and-vase paintings and his still life with
other plants; for Sanyu, these were a means of presenting nature and all its forms in
microcosm. While his paintings of potted flowers reveal only small interior scenes,
they nevertheless evoke the artist's contemplation of the whole of nature. Sanyu must
have been fond of chrysanthemums, as paintings of that particular flower account for
nearly half of his works on flower and plant themes; for the scholarly classes of China
too, the chrysanthemum has since ancient times been a subject of lyrical song and
poetry.

Potted Chrysanthemum in a Blue and White Jardiniere

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For Sanyu, floral still life were a major theme from the 1930s to the 1950s. His repeated explorations of these floral arrangements and their symbolic meanings can be seen in the great variety of his flower-and-vase paintings and his still life with other plants; for Sanyu, these were a means of presenting nature and all its forms in microcosm. While his paintings of potted flowers reveal only small interior scenes, they nevertheless evoke the artist's contemplation of the whole of nature. Sanyu must have been fond of chrysanthemums, as paintings of that particular flower account for nearly half of his works on flower and plant themes; for the scholarly classes of China too, the chrysanthemum has since ancient times been a subject of lyrical song and poetry.

Born in 1901, Sichuan. Sanyu attended Art College in Shanghai and went to Japan in 1919. In 1921, he went to France as part of the first wave of Chinese artists to study there. Unlike most of his contemporaries, Sanyu decided to remain in Paris. Since 1925, Sanyu exhibited his work regularly at the Paris salons and in local galleries. Before World War II, Sanyu returned to China briefly and then moved on to New York where he lived for two years.   In 1948, the Museum of Modern Art in New York held an exhibition of his work. Since Sanyu's death in Paris in 1966, the National Museum of History in Taipei has held three retrospective exhibitions of his works. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Sanyu, the National Museum of History held a grand exhibition of over 129 oil paintings. In 2004, the Musée National des Arts Asiatiques-Guimet held a restrospective show of Sanyu's 60 works.

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