Title:Album of 12 Leaves: Beggars and Street Entertainers
Huang Shen was from Fuchien province, but after establishing himself as a professional painter with a following there, he traveled widely and then established himself in the larger painting center of Yangchou, Chiangsu province. Eventually he moved back to Fuchien and continued to sell his paintings. His works reflect his interests in poetry and calligraphy.
These lowly "street people" are an unusual subject matter for Chinese painting, as former Cahill student Ken Brown, now a professor of Asian art history at California State University, Long Beach, comments:
"My very first graduate seminar paper was on the depiction of social outcasts in Chinese painting. Because published works on the topic were rare, I was delighted to use several relevant paintings in the Ching Yüan Chai collection, including Huang Shen's Beggars album. Because of direct access to works like these, the study of art became immediate and visceral - the examination of tangible, living works rather than of dry, ghostly photos. Moreover, behind every painting was a story of its acquisition in which the tastes and habits of noted collectors, dealers, and scholars became as familiar as pictorial subjects and styles or artists' biographies. In this way, the social world of art history also came alive."