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Art inspired by Chinese concubines on display at D’Amour Museum

Date: 8/8/2011

Aug. 8, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD — The 15 paintings in the exhibit “Ancient Chinese Women: Lives of the Concubines in the Palace” represent a fraction of the meticulous work artist Li Zou undertook over a 10-year period.

Li Zou’s work is on display at the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts through Aug. 9. State Rep. Angelo Puppolo arranged the exhibit.

Puppolo explained that he met Li Zou when the artist appeared at Springfield College last year and made the exhibit at the museum and a one-day exhibition at the State House possible.

Speaking through interpreter Danyang Zhuang, Li Zou explained that she researched 100 women who were imperial concubines in ancient China and then painted their portraits in styles that reflected their story. These concubines were very influential, many of them eventually becoming empresses.

“All have a story to tell. Every painting has a story to tell,” Li Zou said.

The women range from social reformers to teacher to murderers to victims, according the biographical information attached to each painting.

All 100 paintings were collected in the book “Poetic Paintings for Women in Chinese History” published in China.

She chose the medium of silk and painted with inked mixed with pigments, she explained. The use of the silk as the canvas requires many layers of colors, Li Zou said.

While the technique of painting on silk is an ancient one, Li Zou’s styles reflect a wide range. Some women were given a formal portrait, while others are depicted in almost a caricature. One painting was completed to look like an ancient work of art with parts of the canvas missing.

Sara Orr, the museum’s director of marketing and communications, said this was the first time a Chinese artist was the subject of a solo exhibition at the museum.

For more information on the exhibit, call 263-6800 or visit

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