Once opened to Western ships, the Orient delivered treasures never before imagined by the European and American public. The cultural works of carved figures, quality furniture and unusual fabrics were extremely popular and remain so. The Chinese artists who produced the port and ship paintings, for the most part, first studied with painters of the Dutch, Italian and English schools of art, or within the studios of Chinese artist who had studied. Their intended patrons were the merchant sailors themselves.
This artwork shows a view of the stretch known as the Bund at Shanghai. From a view upon the Huangpu River with Chinese, American and British ships, it shows the Western trading warehouses surrounding the oriental architecture of the local customs house just left of center. A realistic view of the important merchant area, painted prior to the 1860s when the custom house exterior was rebuilt in the Western tradition.
Shanghai was one of the five ports conceded to Western access after the Treaty of Nanking in 1843, concluding the first Opium War of 1839. Along with access to Canton, Amoy, Foochow and Ningpo, China conceded possession of Hong Kong and paid Britain $20 million. Shanghai would become the most important and westernized of the five. Even at this early point, the Western influences are visible, including a sailing schooner yacht and national flags.
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