Pang Hiun-Kin (Pang Xunqin) was born on June 20 in Changshu County,Jiangsu Province. Xunqin was his given name, Yuxian his style name and Yu and Guxian his pennames.The youngest of four, he had one brother and two sisters.Since the Jiaqing period, the Pang family served in the government and was a prominent family in the county.His mother, Jin Zhinian, hailing from a large and distinguished family in Zhejiang,had a large impact on his early education.
At five, Pang received a private education and studied the Classics; at eight, his father supervised his study of calligraphy; and at ten, he was encouraged by his mother to learn traditional ink painting for which he showed talent.1917–20
Pang entered the first grade of Changshu County First Middle School when he was eleven. In the second grade his painting teacher praised him for his capabilities and sensitivities. This was his first exposure to Western painting.
Pang’s mother, considering his future career perspectives, suggested he enroll in the French high school in Shanghai. In spring 1921, he was accepted by both the Aurora University Preparatory School and Institut Franco-Chinois d’Industrie et de Commerce. He chose to study at Aurora and used the English name Pang Hiun-Kin. Aurora University, founded in 1903 by the Chinese Jesuit Joseph Ma Xiangbo, S.J. and French Jesuits, was staffed primarily by the French after Ma’s departure a few years later. In the third grade, due to a disagreement with a teacher, Pang pursued his interests in oil painting and reading instead of doing schoolwork, which ended up laying the groundwork for his future endeavors.
Pang entered the medical school at Aurora after graduating from the preparatory school in 1924, but quit the next year.
When he confided to T. de la Tailla, a teacher he trusted, that he wished to pursue art, he was advised that Chinese could never become great artists in Western painting. Determined to prove his teacher wrong, he dropped out of Aurora and took lessons from a Russian oil painting restorer who was living in Shanghai.
Because many of Pang’s cousins from his mother’s side had studied abroad and enjoyed a successful career after returning to China, Pang’s mother wanted him to pursue the same path. With a solid foundation in French and following the trend of graduates of Aurora, he made France his destination. With the assistance of The Global Chinese Student Association, one of the earliest agencies to assist Chinese students in overseas studies, Pang took the ocean liner Paul Lecat and arrived in Paris in October, when he had the opportunity to visit the Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes. He was deeply impressed with how the Art Deco movement integrated art into everyday living.
At the beginning, Pang explored many subjects of study, including a French cultural history course at the University of Paris and music with a retired teacher of the Paris Conservatory. At the suggestion of artist Xu Beihong and his wife Jiang Biwei, Pang enrolled at the Académie Julian. In the meantime, conflicts arose because of his wish to dissolve the marriage arranged by his family, and with souring relations, he needed to be financially independent. He took on various jobs and during this period he learned skills in film projection, for which he obtained a license, costume design, furniture painting and lacquer carving. This was his first exposure to arts, crafts and design.
As a result of a weakened country at the end of the Qing Dynasty and the resulting May 4th Movement, a wave of students, encouraged and supported by the government through the work-study program, traveled abroad to learn the ways of the West to help modernize their country. By the time Pang arrived in France, there were already a number of Chinese students studying art, including Lin Fengmian, Sanyu, Liu Jipiao, Gao Leyi, Qiu Daiming, Zhou Bichu, Yang Xiutao, Li Fengbai, and others.
In December, Li Fengbai introduced Pang to a French family dormitory in the suburbs and urged him to move from the hotel in Paris where he was staying to save rent and to learn more about the lives of French people. A year later, however, Pang moved back to Paris due to the inconvenience commuting between the suburbs and the city.
Deciding the Académie Julian was too conservative, Pang intended to apply to the École nationale de beaux-arts but was convinced by Sanyu to attend the more liberal Académie de la Grande Chaumière instead. The two spent time together there and Pang was influenced by Sanyu’s use of the Chinese brush and ink to express the lines and dynamics of the human body.
In the beginning of the year, Pang created Death, an abstract watercolor that was highly praised by many of his friends. At this time, he met many foreigners, including a French art critic and a German poet Günter Eich. The French journalist took Pang to see an Indian dance performance, raising Pang’s awareness of the connection between culture and creation and inspiring him to paint A Step in Indian Dance. Similarly, Eich read poetry that motivated Pang to make spontaneous ink sketches. This type of training that alludes to and integrates other art forms would eventually help Pang develop different styles and would influence his method of teaching when he returned to China.
Pang painted Mother and Son, the earliest extant watercolor painting. The geometric deconstruction of the picture space pointed to a clear influence of Picasso’s cubism. Apart from studying at the Academies, Pang spent most of his time copying paintings and experimenting with various styles influenced primarily by the important artists and styles of the School of Paris. In addition, he was particularly influenced by the Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli.
At the end of the year, Pang’s former landlord in the suburbs offers him a studio as incentive for him to move back there again. Pang’s oil paintings Senorita J.A.R., Self-Portrait in Black Hat, Balcony, Still Life, and Portrait were all done in this studio. He developed a style that would combine Chinese brushwork with European expressionism.
On April 14, Pang attended the inaugural meeting of the Chinese Art Association in France. The association, composed of some forty artists, such as Liu Haisu, Wang Yachen, Li Fengbai, Fan Tchunpi, Yan Wenliang, Sanyu, Wang Rizhang, Liu Yanren, Fu Lei and Zhang Xian, emulated art and cultural groups from other countries. Through this meeting, Pang met members of the Shanghai art circle for the first time. Years later, after he returned to China, he established art societies with some of these members.
In June, Pang visited the Exposition d’Art Japonais in Paris jointly sponsored by the French and Japanese governments. After viewing all the important works exhibited, Pang was reminded of the stagnation of modern art in China and realized that art must be nourished by its own culture.
In late autumn, Pang traveled to Berlin and Cologne and was invited to attend the performance of the German dancer Mary Wigman, inspiring him to paint Dance of Wigman. In addition, the modern architecture and applied arts influenced by Bauhaus permitted him to see how the transformation of building materials transformed interior craftsmanship.
Before going to Germany, Pang had already read about Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus School, who emphasized the importance of both aesthetics and technique in art education. In 1946, Pang wrote “The Ideal to Build a School of Arts and Crafts” based on Gropius’s philosophy, designing a curriculum that paid equal attention to both study and practice, thereby creating an experimental facility of how industry and academia could cooperate. Unfortunately, Tao Xingzhi who was responsible for raising funds for the school died suddenly. Coupled with the full-scale outbreak of the Chinese Civil War, the plan to build the school was not fulfilled.
In December, Pang returned to China.
In January, Pang arrived in Shanghai and with a letter of introduction written by Liu Haisu visited Wang Jiyuan, a former teacher at the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts and one of the founders of Yiyuan Painting Research Institute, with whom Pang would establish Storm Society and an art studio later. Pang also got to know artists active in the Shanghai art world, such as Pan Yu Lin, Zhu Qizhan, Zhang Chenbo, Zhang Daqian, Zhang Shanzi, through Wang.
Unable to get a job in Shanghai, he returned to his hometown of Changshu and immersed himself in reading The Chinese on the Art of Painting, Mo Lin Jin Hua and many other ancient Chinese painting classics. He penned Xunqin sui bi based on the ideas from the readings and reclaimed his discarded Chinese brush and ink and painted Self-Portrait in Ancient Costume and Lady in Ancient Costume, two traditional style paintings. He continued to explore the oil painting style developed in the Paris suburban studio and completed Portrait, Roof, Green Vase, Coffee Shop, Gray and other works. In addition, he joined the Xuguang Painting Association, a modern Western painting group formed by young artists from the Changshu area. This association was founded in the autumn of 1929 and invited Liu Haisu, Xu Beihong, Yan Wenliang, Ni Yide, Zhang Xian and others to participate in its exhibition to provide members with opportunities to observe and learn.
Pang’s mother, worried about his livelihood, obtained a letter of recommendation from Cai Yuanpei that introduced Pang to Lin Fengmian, the principal of the National Hangzhou Art College. Pang recalled that after ringing Lin’s doorbell, he felt a sudden need to be self-reliant, and before anyone could answer the door, he hopped on an approaching bus and left. At that time, China’s art market was still dominated by traditional ink paintings. Western painters who studied overseas generally had difficulty making a living on the sale of paintings, and most of them chose to teach instead. Even though Pang knew a little about art education in China, influenced by Sanyu, he rejected the conservative and standardized teaching style of public schools. He intended to recruit students, develop unstructured small classes, and continue his own painting exploration. Coincidentally, Wang Rizhang, a teacher at the Xinhua Art College at the time, wrote a letter inviting him to organize a painting club and teaching institution in Shanghai, coinciding with his own plans. Before setting off, he briefly worked as a drawing teacher in his elementary school.
In September, together with Wang Rizhang and Liu Yanren, he co-organized Taimeng Painting Association in Shanghai. Taimeng was a transliteration of the French “deux mondes” (two worlds). The facilities and programs were all modeled on institutes in Paris. Pang taught courses in oil painting, watercolor, drawing, and sketching. During this period, his students Zhou Duo and Duan Pingyou introduced him to Ni Yide, thereby planting the seed for the forming of Storm Society and Muse Society. In December, some members of the Taimeng Painting Association were questioned by the French Concession Police for participating in an underground organization of the Communist Party. Pang, Zhou Zhentai, Hu Daozhi, Tu Yi, and other instructors and students were arrested one after another, and the association was immediately closed. Although Pang was released the same day, this incident caused him to be deeply disappointed in the Kuomintang authorities who collaborated with the French police.
At this time, Pang changed the qin character in his given name, mainly used in girls’ names, to a variation to avoid misconceptions.
After the Taimeng Painting Association incident, Wang Rizhang left Shanghai and asked Pang to be a substitute instructor for his sketching class at the Changming Art College, which was a private school founded in 1930 by Wang Yiting to commemorate his teacher Wu Changshuo with departments in Chinese Painting, Western Painting and Art Education. Failed to obtain a license from Ministry of Education, the school closed in June 1931, and Pang was once again unemployed.
Pang was deeply dissatisfied with the art world in Shanghai where the primary focus was on traditional ink painting and where the academic style still dominated Western paintings. Pang and Ni Yide held a meeting with Chen Cheng-po, Zhou Duo and Zeng Zhiliang with the idea of forming a painting club to overturn the stagnant art world. Named the Storm Society, their club opposed conservative conventions, encouraging instead the pursuit of individualistic and modern expressions in the hopes of creating new artistic trends, like Fauvism, Cubism, Dada and Surrealism in Europe. According to Ni Yide, the Storm Society never appointed a president or vice-president. The actual person in charge was Pang and the two of them handled all administrative matters.
At the end of the year, Pang and Wang Jiyuan established the Jiyuan Hiun-Kin Studio that served as a meeting place for the members of the Storm Society. It also attracted young artists interested in modern art to join in their discussions, such as Li Chunshan, Liang Xihong and Li Baoquan. After Wang Jiyuan withdrew from the studio in 1932, it was called first Hiun-Kin Studio, then Daxiong Industrial and Commercial Art Corporation and finally Storm Studio. In 1934, it closed due to financial difficulties.
In January, Pang participated in an exhibition organized by Bernadine Szold-Fritz with the oil paintings Self-Portrait, Butterfly, Green Wine Vessel and Roof. Edgar Koechlin, French Minister to Shanghai, praised Roof, which he ended up collecting thereby drawing much attention to Pang’s works in the foreign community in Shanghai. Szold-Fritz was a journalist active in art and literary circles in Shanghai whose home served as a popular art salon.
In February, Pang substituted for Qiu Daiming, instructor of a sketching class at the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts who went home to Sichuan for personal matters, for a semester.
In March, Pang’s father Pang Shuwei passed away.
In July, with the idea of publishing art magazines, Pang joined forces with Liu Haisu, Wang Jiyuan, Fu Lei, Zhang Ruogu, Ni Yide, Zhang Xian and others, to found Moshe, which published L’Art Decadaily focusing on art theory. Even though it was revised and renamed L’Art Monthly the following year, it attracted few readers and, unable to sustain the continuous loss, was eventually cancelled, whereby Moshe was also dissolved. The magazine served as platform for Pang’s literature as well as views on art and Ni Yide, the editor, used it to promote the Storm Society’s exhibitions.
In September, together with Liu Haisu, Wang Jiyuan and Pan Yu Lin, Pang served as honorary instructors of Western painting at the Painting Research Institute of the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts.
In the same month, Pang held his first solo exhibition in Shanghai, demonstrating the diverse and experimental creativity culled from his travels in France. Pang met his future wife Schudy at this exhibition, whereupon she became a part of Pang’s circle of friends, including members of the Storm Society. They married years later.
In October, the first painting exhibition of the Storm Society was held with over 50 works by both members and non-members. Works influenced by current European art styles, such as Fauvism, Surrealism and Neo-Classicism were balanced with those with Asian references, thereby creating a lively and dynamic viewing experience. Chen Baoyi noted that in spite of the solemn atmosphere as a result of the January 28 Incident in Shanghai, the exhibition “subtly exposes the beauty of newly blossoming flowers.” At the opening tea party, the Storm Society invited members of the Shanghai art and literary circles and announced “The Storm Society Manifesto” written by Ni Yide.
At the end of the year, Pang, together with Zhou Duo and Duan Pingyou, established Daxiong Industrial and Commercial Art Corporation, with the dual purpose of making art more practical and industrial items more artistic, thereby attaining a share of the burgeoning Shanghai advertising market. Their scope of business included packaging, posters, bookbinding and store window decorations. In June of the following year, Daxiong held an exhibition with over 100 advertising designs, borrowing the aesthetics of the Art Deco movement. Even so, they couldn’t break the hold of the big advertising companies hold on Shanghai’s market, and Daxiong went out of business.
In October, Pang participated in the second Storm Society exhibition with the oil paintings Composition and Portrait of Schudy. In order to encourage young people to engage in art, the public was invited to submit their works and outstanding ones would be rewarded. The goal was to expand the scope of the Society, as well as its influence in the Shanghai art world. Wang Jiyuan chose the remote Shijieshe auditorium for the exhibition in an effort to save costs. At the opening, Li Shizeng, head of Shijieshe, presented awards to the winners Schudy and Lin Hengzhi. Schudy hence became a member of the Storm Society.
The day after the exhibition, Wei Mengke, a recent graduate from the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, published “On the Storm Society’s Painting Exhibition” and critiqued, “The Storm Society is organized by a group of young artists. . . but I must apologize, among all the works shown, there are few I understand. . . the reds and greens of Wang Jiyuan’s Landscape evoke images of a forest fire; all the bodies with large heads and calves made me believe Chinese models are suffering from edema. . . but there is one painting by Liu Shijun, Composition, that caught my eye. . . It features a depressed and persistent color palette and woodcut silhouettes to depict a poor family. . . The look of hunger and suffering was captured, not only was understood by all viewers, but also very touching.”
Since Wang Jiyuan, Ni Yide and Zhang Xian were all Wei’s teachers at the Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts and not wanting to be outdone, they retorted with “The Storm Society Announcement”: “ . . .If instructors are regarded as young artists, we honestly do not know where Wei places himself. Not really understanding art, Wei can be forgiven for his naïve and ridiculous remarks, spoken as a young student who himself has just graduated.”
These articles created quite a stir and triggered debates on “respecting teachers” and “disregarding teachers”. In hindsight, Wei, influenced by Lu Xun, believed that art should reflect the hardships of the people and hence the weakness of their country. The dispute was therefore more between Wei’s stance on proletarian art as opposed to the modern art advocated by the Storm Society, summarizing the two different developments of Chinese art in the 1930s.
In December, Pang and members of the Storm Society founded the Storm Studio based on the Académie de la Grande Chaumière to provide a venue for members to study and teach. According to Pang, Fu Lei told him that because of the Taimeng Painting Association incident the French Concession police was still closely monitoring him. In light of this, taking into consideration the possible implications of all the unknown people using the Storm Studio, coupled with the difficulty in coming up with the rent, they closed the Studio the following year.
In January, the Shanghai Minguang Middle School formed experimental classes in fine art, music, film, and drama. Members of the Storm Society, Pang, Ni Yide, Schudy, Zhou Duo, Duan Pingyou and others were invited to teach there.
In June, Pang showed a painting at the First Exhibition of Yifengshe organized by the Yifeng Monthly’s editorial team. It included artists from across the country and exhibited in Shanghai, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Beijing. Due to insufficient funds and the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, the Yifengshe exhibitions eventually stopped in 1937. Pang participated in the first and last.
In August, Pang’s daughter Pang Tao was born in Shanghai.
In September, Wang Yachen, dean of the Xinhua College of Art, invited Pang to be honorary professor at the school’s painting institute.
In October, Pang, together with Zhou Bichu, Li Youxing, Li Wen, and Sun Fuxi, opened an art research class to teach fine art and graphic design.
In the same month, Pang showed Son of the Earth in the third exhibition of the Storm Society and received positive responses. Lacquer artist Shen Fuwen commented, “Son of the Earth depicts a farmer and his family. Because of the natural catastrophe that year, they suffered from starvation and had a life of hardships, revealing the harsh realities of farming villages everywhere.” Evidently, Pang’s paintings shifted from expressions of art to examining the realities of society. This point of view, however, instigated criticism from some. Pang remarked that not only was he prohibited from publishing this painting, his personal safety was also threatened. He even got an anonymous call that the Garrison Command would come for his arrest.
In his later years, Pang made a particular note of this anonymous warning which, together with the previous Taimeng Painting Association incident and the French Concession police’s surveillance of his activities, made him mistrustful of the Kuomintang’s authoritarian rule supported by intruding foreigners and which resulted in his preference to be politically more left-leaning.
Unemployed, Pang posted an advertisement to teach art and to sell his paintings and commercial designs at his home.
In October, Pang exhibited two paintings at the fourth exhibition of the Storm Society––Untitled and Landscape. Untitled expressed how the country is suffering from foreign expansionist encroachment, the exploitation of capitalism and the mounting pressure from the ruling government. In addition to Son of the Earth, it was one of Pang’s few Symbolist style paintings in addition to Son of the Earth.
In February, he participated in the China Modern Painting Exhibition with three oil paintings, Son of the Earth, Composition and Still Life. The exhibition, sponsored by Bernadine Szold-Fritz, featured more than 150 works by well-known Chinese and Western painting artists in Shanghai. The Son of the Earth was priced at 800 yuan, the highest price at the exhibition, but it didn’t sell.
In the spring, his mother Jin Zhinian passed away in Changshu.
In August, his son Pang Jiun was born in Shanghai.
Li Youxing, director of the Design Department at National Beiping Art School, invited Pang to teach there in September. He brought his family up north to take the position. Due to his lack of teaching experience in this field and the scarcity of suitable textbooks, most of his time was spent on preparing for his classes and there were therefore few paintings done. The school required each instructor to contribute a work for the Ministry of Education’s 1937 First National Exhibition of Chinese Art, for which he submitted a watercolor, Composition. Aside from that, the only other painting he did during his ten months of employment was an oil painting, Candle Shadow.
Ever since Pang returned to China from France, aside from part-time and short-term substitute teaching jobs,all his other endeavors, whether forming art groups or founding art studios and design company, have failed. He was unable to support his family through Western-style painting. With his preference for design, even after Daxiong Industrial and Commercial Art Corporation closed, he continued to teach private classes and he accepted commissions to do design. The offer to teach at National Beiping Art School was therefore in line with his own career goals, it also provided stability in his personal financial situation. Given this, he could no longer oppose the public art school system and could no longer refuse to work within that system.
After he and his family moved north, other members of the Storm Society left one after the other: Duan Pingyou and Yang Taiyang went to Tokyo to study, Zhang Xian passed away and Wang Jiyuan withdrew his membership. In the end, only Ni Yide and Zhou Duo remained in Shanghai and the Storm Society officially disbanded. In retrospect, Pang regretted that the Storm Society was not able to transform the stagnant art world as he had hoped.
In sum, even though the Storm Society’s manifesto urged members to adhere to pure art, to follow trends in modern painting and to develop their own creative style, because of its excessive reference to European paintings, it was inevitably criticized for plagiarism and being overly derivative and that it failed to reflect the current social situation. Examining the Shanghai art world in the first half of the 1930s, the Storm Society did indeed succeed in introducing emerging modernist trends in Europe. It also contributed to the cultivation of modern art in China and the attempt to synchronize modern Chinese Western-style art with the rest of the world. Even though it was short-lived, it is today widely recognized for “heralding the Chinese modern art movement.”