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Guan Ze Ju

by on January 22, 2013

Guan Ze Ju was born in Yangjiang, Guangdong Province, China in 1941.

Guan Ze Ju is a Senior Artist of the Guangzhou Art Institute and a member of the Artists’ Association of China; he has served as Director of the Guangdong Provincial Branch of the Artists’ Association of China and Vice-Secretary General of the Oil Painting Research Association of Guangdong, China. He currently resides in the United States where he works as a studio artist. He is also a member of the American Society of Portrait Artists and has been awarded the distinction of Honorary Overseas Artist by the Guangdong Art Institute.

1941 Guan Ze Ju was born in Yangjiang, Guangdong Province, China.
1957 First solo exhibition shown at Guan Zeju’s junior high school including
oil paintings, water colors and charcoal drawings.
1958 Began studies at the Secondary School affiliated with  the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Art.
The oil painting,“Go Where Your Country Needs You,” is selected for inclusion in the Guangdong Province
Youth Art Exhibition.
1961 Graduated from the Secondary School affiliated with the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts.
Began studies at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, majoring in oil Painting.
1966 Graduated from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. The oil painting, ”Lady Teacher,” is selected for
inclusion in the China National Exhibition of Art and is acquired for the collection at the Guangzhou
Academy of Fine Arts Museum.
Commissioned by the Henan Provincial Museum to paint an oil portrait of the“People’s Martyr, Jiao Yulu.”
1967 Commissioned by the Nanchang Museum to create and oil painting depicting “Chairman Mao at the Jinggang   Mountain Base Area.”
1974 The watercolor painting series, “Beneath the Betel-Nut Mountain,” is selected for inclusion in the China
National Exhibition of Art and is published in a folio- sized Painting Collection by the Chinese Congress
Cultural Division and the National Art Publishing Press. Eleven pieces of the series are acquired for the
collection at the China National Art Museum.
1978 Engaged in post-graduate study at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. The paintings, “Still Life” and
“Portrait of a Girl,” are acquired for the collection at the Guangzhou academy of Fine Arts Museum.
1984 The oil painting, “Girl in the Cocoa Garden,” is selected for inclusion in the Sixth Annual China
National Exhibition of Art.
1985 The three-piece series, “The Signs of Early Spring,” is selected for inclusion in the China National
Exhibition of Oil Painting.
1986 Solo exhibition of “Oil Painting by Guan Zeju,” sponsored by he Western Arts and Historical Society,
Guangzhou, China.
Awarded First Prize in the Dortmunder Arts Exchange
Exhibition at the Museum and der Hansastrabe (Federal Republic of Germany) for the paintings, “The Signs of Early  Spring,” “My Wife,” and “Girl in the Cocoa Garden.” The painting, “Girl in the Cocoa Garden,” is selected
for inclusion in the Thailand Exhibition of Art.
The oil painting, “Time and Space,” is selected for inclusion in the Second Asian Art Exhibition, Fukuoka, Japan.
The oil paintings, “Girl in Black” and “The Composer,” are selected for inclusion in The Exhibition
of Contemporary Oil Painting, Hong Kong.
1987 The oil painting, “The Rescue,” is selected for inclusion in the National Military Exhibition of Art.
1988 Solo exhibition of “Oil Painting by Guan Zeju,” sponsored by the Guangdong Provincial Branch of the
Artist’ Association of China. The oil paintings, “Autumn Leaves” and “Figure Study,” are selected for inclusion in the China National Exhibition of Oil Paintings.
Commissioned to create a series of portraits of world celebrities, including among others Beethoven, Mozart, Newton and Einstein. This sequence of the portraits was circulated nation- wide and published by the China National Publishing House, Guangdong Lingnan.
1989 Guest Artist – in – Residence at California State University, Sacramento. Gives lecture and holds an
exhibition entitled, “On Chinese Women – An Exhibition of Guan Zeju.”
1990 A collection of selected works entitled, Selections from the Paintings of Guan Zeju, is published by the
Guangdong Lingnan Art Publishing Company.
1991 Solo exhibition of “Oil Paintings by Guan Zeju,” Mamone Gallery, San Francisco.
1993 Participant in Art Expo, New York.
1994 Solo exhibition of “Oil Paintings by Guan Zeju,” Mamone Gallery, San Francisco.
Participant in Art Expo, New York.
1995 Participant in Art Expo, China.
Participant in Art Expo, Hong Kong.

Exhibition of “Oil Paintings by Guan Ze Ju” ARNOT GALLERY, New York, NY U.S.A.
On Permanent Exhibition with ARNOT GALLERY, New York, NY U.S.A to present
1997 Participant in the Singapore International Art Exhibition.
1998 Participant in the 1998 Taipei International Art Fair.
1999 Solo exhibition of “Selections of Guan Zeju’s Oil Paintings,” Memory Gallery, Hong Kong.
2000 Exhibition of “Oil Paintings By Guan Zeju,” Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco, CA U.S.A.

On permanent exhibition with the ARNOT GALLERY in New York, U.S.A.

Times of great upheaval often produce great artists. This seems to be a truism for the Twentieth Century. Its two world wars created environments rich with constant reevaluations of the role and purpose of art. Powerful movements, such as Surrealism, altered the way people view the world and communicate with each other. Similar contributions to the world of art from Asia have thus far not been wholly appreciated, such as the legacy provided by China’s Social Realists. One of the greatest of these Social Realists is Guan Zeju.

Guan Zeju has lived through some of the most tumultuous times in China’s five thousand year history. He has become a masterful painter and a great teacher through intense discipline and effort and obviously a great deal of inherent talent. As a teenager, people called him the “painting ox” for his single-minded focus, both in Western and in traditional Chinese modes of expression. Again and again, when he is asked about his experiences, his birth in 1941 in a small village outside of Guangzhou (Canton), his formal and informal education and apprenticeships, he returns to the same word in Mandarin, meaning roughly “effort.”

Through the Cold War and the Cultural Revolution, Guan continued to paint, whether his surroundings and possessions were, by current standards, lavish or incredibly spartan. His efforts produced some of the finest Social Realist artwork in China, artwork now being understood for its influence on the social and political course of the world’s most populous nation. His numerous portraits and murals of Mao Ze Dong, paintings and drawings of ethnic minorities, images exalting the glory of the Han Chinese, collections in the National Museum of China, significant works in the Museums of Nanchang and Henan Provinces, as well as numerous prestigious private collections, stand as important testaments to the times in which he has lived.

Guan began at a very young age with graphite and watercolor as well as traditional Chinese ink. At the age of fifteen, he was recognized as a prodigy and awarded by his junior high school with an exhibition of more than two hundred works of art in at least three media. He later graduated first in his class from the Guangzhou Institute of Fine Arts. His teachers at the Institute passed on to him knowledge of techniques and trends both within and outside of China. One of his two primary instructors spent a number of years studying in Russia. The other spent time in America, at the Art Institute of Chicago.

After art school and much success in the public sphere, Guan moved south with his wife to live in relative isolation on the large South China Sea island of Hainan. The work of this period includes many quickly executed studies of common people all over the island, many fishermen, women working with crops and government employees. For Guan, this was a communion with the fundamentals of painting, a technical mastery of which he had already achieved. The tropical light was more intense than any he had yet captured. And the colors, particularly reds, greens and blues, were richer than those he had thus far allowed himself to explore; this became the foundation for his great ability as a colorist. He lived with the people he painted, developing an empathy for particular individuals evident in the deepening expressions on their faces. Even the elements became part of his labors. Often, Guan would work by the sea, suffering terrible sunburns from days or weeks of sustained painting. Strong winds would blow sand onto his canvases, sticking on the oils and becoming part of the texture of his paintings. This place was his sanctuary, and he feels it represents the most peaceful and joyful fifteen years of his life to date.

With the entire history of art, with an emphasis on academic and Symbolist painting, as his inheritance, Guan possesses the skills to realize any flight of his own imagination. The subtle influences of Surrealism are also evident, particularly in earlier paintings, and clearly still inform aspects of perspective. He can paint like the most expressive of the Impressionists, or render people’s features with a crispness similar to America’s “hyper-realists.” Technical virtuosity, however, is clearly not an end in itself. Rather, technique is the beginning from which the artist creates the imagery he desires.

Guan’s work eavesdrops but does not invade upon the private moments of his subjects. They can be deep in contemplation before a recital, celebrating together a successful performance, or simply being one with nature in a garden or on a lake.

A painting can require as much as several dozen preliminary sketches, investigations into both light and composition. These are sometimes preceded by many hours in the audience, backstage, in the studio, even in the orchestra pit, taking photographs. Once he makes it to canvas, a painting may take several weeks to several months to complete. He employs 18th and 19th century techniques, both in the preparation of the surface he will work on, and in the complex alchemy involved in utilizing thin glazes of translucent oil paints.

When asked which artists Guan himself most admires, he responds not with his contemporaries, but with names like Alfred Sisley, the great Impressionist. He speaks with deep respect for the deceptive simplicity and powerful movement of Monet. Isaac Levitan, a Russian academic painter of landscapes is a favorite. But Guan’s greatest admiration is reserved for the late nineteenth century Russian master Ilya Repin, a man who produced dramatic nearly monochrome canvases, scenes from the theater and portraits of friends like Leo Tolstoy.

With such great depth to his abilities, a willingness to learn and experiment, to “instruct” himself, Guan Zeju’s greatest achievements are clearly ahead of him. As this extraordinary artist continues to develop his own voice, his own visual language, one which combines all his disparate learning, he will undoubtedly produce wholly unexpected and new imagery for a world refreshingly enamored once more with representational art.

An He, an established Impressionist of women, was the pupil of Guan Ze Ju.


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