Ten years later, Pang Jiun is already one of the most sough-after painters in today’s art market, with his landscape paintings commanding prices of at least 1-2 million HK dollars, and his collectors no longer found only in Taiwan and the former crown colony, but across all Chinese communities in Asia, as well as Europe and North America. The year 2015 saw a series of exhibitions and lectures titled “Pang Jiun at 80: A Global Retrospective,” which was organized by You Renhan, curator of the Ever Harvest Art Gallery. In May this year, timed to coincide with the 56th Venice Biennale, the Istituto Santa Maria della Pietà showcased the artist’s work in an event titled “Orient Civilization – Pang- Jiun Solo Exhibition,” and in June the Ueno Royal Museum in Tokyo hosted an exhibition named “Pang Jiun: Expression of the Orient.” Further solo exhibitions are planned in other Asian cities, including Singapore, Shanghai, and Taipei. In addition, Taipei’s Red Gold Fine Art, in collaboration with Artist Magazine, will publish a monumental collection of Pang Jiun’s oil paintings. Scheduled to appear in the second half of 2015, this album will catalog the artist’s major works throughout his career. At 80, Pang Jiun is still full of energy and creative drive, and continues to amaze his admirers.
Hailing from Changshu in Jiangsu province, Pang Jiun was born in 1936 into a prominent artistic family that had already produced three generations of renowned painters, including his father, Pang Xunqin, who belonged to the first wave of Chinese artists studying in France, and his mother, Qiu Ti, who studied painting in Japan. Pang Jiun’s parents also were a driving force behind the Juelanshe (sometimes translated as “Storm Society”) movement in the 1930s in Shanghai, where they pushed for innovation and reform of Chinese painting and art education, together with contemporaries such as Sanyu and Lin Fengmian. Pang Xunqin’s field of expertise was decorative painting, which he researched extensively, introducing many concepts of modern Western art and design to China. He was also the founder of the Central Academy of Art and Design in Beijing, and enjoyed a very high reputation in Chinese fine arts circles. Although born in Shanghai, Pang Jiun was raised in Beijing in a household steeped in artistic endeavor. He showed great promise from very early childhood, creating his first self-portrait at the tender age of two years and eight months. Together with his sister Pang Dao, two years older than him, he held his first exhibition of oil paintings at Shanghai’s Yili Gallery when he was 11 years old. At 13, Pang entered the Hangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. He was soon transferred to the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, where he studied under Lin Fengmian, Pan Tianshou, Huang Binhong, Xu Beihong, Dong Xiwen, and Li Keran. In fact, he was the last student that Xu Beihong took under his wings, and when he graduated at 18, he was the youngest graduate that the Central Academy of Fine Arts had ever seen.
Born and bred as an artist, Pang remained active and immersed in art throughout his entire life. His parents had undergone the baptism of Western oil painting, and been great promoters of modern art in China. Absorbing both the experience and knowledge of his parents, while at the same time being imbued in Oriental art and culture, Pang Jiun soon began to develop his own individual style of painting. But during the Cultural Revolution, his father was denounced as a rightist, while Pang Jiun himself came under fire as a revisionist. He was forced to specialize in mainstream decorative paintings of landscapes and historic sites, but even there his unique style and talent made his work stand out so much that the members of the diplomatic staff at various foreign embassies took notice of his paintings. His output became so popular that the paintings and sketches from life he delivered at the Beijing Fine Arts Academy on a daily basis were sold almost as soon as they went on exhibition. This way, his reputation slowly grew, and somehow Pang was able to at least partly shake off the social and political restraints typical for a time when all art and literature had to serve the Communist Party. As much as he could, then, the artist “painted for the sake of painting.” In 1959, the then 23-year-old artist painted a scene at the construction site of the Shisanling (“Ming Tombs”) Reservoir in Beijing, and this monumental oil painting later became a part of the collection at the National Art Museum of China.