Lai Sung was an artist of the Chinese School, one of the very few to have works that could be attributed to him by name; most artists of the Chinese School remain unknown. Lai Sung is listed in the definitive book of the China Trade by Carl Crossman as an artist who flourished from 1850-1880 as a Chinese ship portraitist whose work is quite scarce.
China Trade Paintings
Beginning in the late 1700s, an increasing number of international merchant vessels began bringing back to their respective ports cargos of exotic objects from China which found ready markets in America and Europe. An insatiable interest in things from Asia resulted in a range of exquisite objects created by Chinese artisans specifically for the western markets.
Among the items that filled the holds of the sailing ships were furniture, silk embroideries, lacquerware, ivory carvings, fans, and a fascinating variety of paintings. These paintings offered first hand documentation of the ships that plied the Far East Trade and the exotic ports they visited.
These early ‘China Trade’ paintings are considered to be some of the finest harbor views and ship portraits ever produced. They usually have no signatures or labels and offer little or no indication of who the artist was. Only a score or so names from the period are even known and these may be positively identified with only a very few paintings.