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Li Zhuangping

A painter who caused controversy over his model choice

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Born in 1948 in Sichuan province, Li Zhuangping is a painter who is categorised as part of China’s modern romantic-realist school. Currently a professor at an arts institution, Li is best known for his oil paintings.

Why is he in the news?

The artist has courted controversy after releasing a collection titled Oriental Goddess and Mountain Spirit. Why? The series features his 23 year-old daughter – posing nude – among wild animals (one painting shows her riding on the back of a lion).

Yuan Zushe, an art critic, published an article fin China Youth Daily criticising Li for painting his daughter in this way, and claiming that it is unethical. “Such a practice could have a negative impact on society’s sexual morality,” he warned.

But Lin Mu, another critic and a professor at Sichuan University, defended the artist’s choice of model. “In artistic circles, some artists ask their wives to model for them. But asking one’s daughter to model for work is [less common]. That he challenged ethics and morality is very respectable,” Lin wrote.

Li claims that he chose his daughter for artistic reasons.

“When I began to create the series six years ago, I decided to use my daughter as the naked goddess because she has been studying art since she was nine. Only she has the kind of pure and noble temperament that is in line with the essence of my works – largely because I didn’t want her to have too many dealings with the outside world,” was the artist’s explanation.

Li added that his wife and daughter also gave their approval.

His daughter concurred, saying: “I’m also a painter. Being a model for my father is a sacred thing. No matter what other people think about us, we are very magnanimous.”

China’s netizens were less impressed. “This is a publicity stunt. Now his daughter’s photos are flooding online,” one netizen warned.

“I think that the father raises his daughter like a pet, limiting her contact with the outside world to turn her into a pure and out-of-this-world goddess. And when she’s grown up, she is used as a nude model, posing from all angles for his father to paint. This is disgusting,” another fumed.

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