The Qing dynasty closed China to maritime trade in 1757, just at the moment when European nations were expanding their international commerce. Guangzhou (Canton) was the only legal port for trade between China and the outside world until 1843. This south-eastern region, which includes modern Guangdong province, was commonly referred to as Lingnan, and produced some of the most important political thinkers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao, who advocated replacing the imperial system with a constitutional monarchy, and Sun Yat-sen, who established China's first republic in 1911.



The development of a Cantonese manner of painting began in the nineteenth century, but did not attain national visibility and a distinctive style until the first part of the twentieth century. The leader of the Lingnan School of painting was Gao Jianfu (1879-1950?), who joined the Alliance Society (Tongmeng hui), founded by Sun Yat-sen in 1905 to overthrow the emperor. After 1911 he devoted himself instead to a revolution in art. In his painting, publications, and teaching, he promoted the development of a New National Painting (xin guohua). He and his followers, most notably his younger brother GAO Qifeng, combined the local style with elements of Western and Japanese realist painting to create an art that they hoped would be more accessible to the citizenry of China's new republic than the literati painting of the past.

 

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