When he arrived in France in 1980, aged twenty, Yan Pei-Ming immediately headed to Paris to discover the works of Gustave Courbet, then exhibited at the Musée du Louvre. Thirty-nine years later, considered one of the most masterful painters of our time, he was inspired by A Burial at Ornans, a masterpiece of realism, to create A Burial in Shanghai, specially designed for the Musée d’Orsay to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Courbet’s birth.
On the occasion of this anniversary, Yan Pei-Ming has realized A Burial in Shanghai (Celestial Mountain, My Mother, The Farewell), a work consisting of three panels, in three different styles, from the most expressionistic to the most minute.
The first piece features mountains painted in an expressionistic style, verging on abstraction: “It is an idealized landscape, heavenly perhaps, where I would hope for my mother to reside.”
The portrait of his late mother is monumental. “My mother was an ordinary person,” he says, “but I painted her on the same scale as icons of political power.”
The third panel, his mother’s funeral is painted on exactly the same scale as A Burial at Ornans (1849-1850): Here, every detail is meticulously depicted. The scene is no longer set in Ornans, but in Shanghai, birthplace of the artist.