Tintin's forgotten friend

Updated: 2014-10-17 07:00

By Zhang Kun(Shanghai Star)

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Tintin's forgotten friend

Zhang Chongren's sculptures of Chinese artist Qi Baishi.

A bronze sculpture of a slim hand sits in a glass case under the exhibition banner. It is a small hand, with slender fingers. It is moulded from Zhang's own hand. Chinese maestro artist Qi Baishi once praised him as "the master hand in sculpture".

"Mr Zhang Chongren is one of the founding figures in China's modern sculpture art," says Xiao Gu, director of SPSI. "He deserves to be remembered, and brought out of the shadow of history."

Zhang was born to a wood carving craftsman's family in the Shanghai suburb of Xujiahui (known as Zi-Kar-Wei at the time). His father left him in a French orphanage after his mother died when he was only seven.

He grew up in the orphanage, learning French and drawing. He demonstrated great skill in painting and won a scholarship to study in the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Belgium, where at the suggestion of Prof. Egide Rombaux, he turned his focus to sculpture.

Zhang completed his studies and returned to Shanghai in 1936, and founded Chongren Studio. "It was a highly-reputable modern art teaching facility. Many artists, architects and celebrities studied with him," says Fu Jun, an art critic and deputy director of SPSI Art Museum.

He was the first to introduce Western sculpture art to China. "Before the 20th century, sculptures in China were nothing much except for Buddha statues," Fu says.