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Wan Lan, Xini, Shen Jiawei and Billy
, 2010

by Greg Weight

inkjet print (frame: 80.0 cm x 88.0 cm)

Shen Jiawei (b. 1948), painter, was born in China, where he grew up during the Cultural Revolution and began to gain recognition as an artist in the mid-1970s. Largely self-taught at first, when he was able to undertake formal art training in Beijing he was significantly influenced by his teacher, the famous portraitist Shangyi. He came to specialise in history paintings, and his Standing Guard for our Great Motherland (1974) was one of the best-known images in Mao’s China in the late 1970s. Shen moved to Australia in 1989, to be joined much later by his wife Lan and their daughter, Xini, whom Shen first saw as a toddler in Sydney. From working as a pavement portraitist at Darling Harbour, he built a full-time painting practice. Shen’s painting of Tom Hughes was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in 2005 and he was commissioned to paint Crown Princess Mary of Denmark for the Gallery the same year. He painted the National Portrait Gallery’s Founding Patron, L Gordon Darling AC CMG in 2006; John Howard for Parliament House, Canberra in 2010; and Pope Francis for the Vatican in 2014. In 2016 he won the Gallipoli Art Prize.

Greg Weight’s photograph of Shen with Lan, Xini, and their dog Billy was taken in Shen’s studio in Bundeena, New South Wales. Behind the artist is a typically playful self-portrait, in which he appears as an Imperial court painter of yesteryear, painting Princess Mary.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2012
Accession number: 2012.111