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A personal chapter in the story of Chinese-Czech cultural relations is being tenderly unveiled at the Beijing launch of a picture album of the late Czech painter z-DE-nek skle-NAR. The remarkable illustrations to the Chinese legend of the Monkey King by the 20th century artist were brought to China by Sklenar's nephew.
Sklenar's connection with China was revitalized more than 20 years after his death.
The famous Czech artist was born in 1910. He visited China in 1955, and thus began his fascination with the country and its culture. It evolved into a deep, lifelong passion, and provided an ever-present inspiration for his own creative output.
For Sklenar's nephew, gallerist junior Zdenek Sklenar, bringing his uncle's Monkey King illustrations back to China is a true labor of love that echoes the elder Sklenar's Sinophilia.
Zdenek sklenar, Gallerist, said, "For the Czech public, the only source that they get to know the Chinese Monkey King is through my uncle's paintings. My uncle fell in love with the Chinese landscape and drew strong inspiration from Chinese landscape painting traditions. After his return from China, these elements began to appear repeatedly in his paintings."
Monkey King is the hero of the classic Chinese novel "Journey to the West" by Ming Dynasty writer Wu Cheng'en. The clever and righteous image of the monkey has lived in the hearts and minds of generations of Chinese for more than five-hundred years. It has been adapted into almost all forms of artistic expression, including animation, opera, and TV series.
During Sklenar's visit to China, he established lifelong friendships with the painters Qi Baishi, Li Keran, and Fu Baoshi.
According to Li Xiaoke, son of the 20th century Chinese art master Li Keran, Sklenar's illustrations are a rare example linking together the European and Chinese cultural traditions.
Li Xiaoke, Son of Li Keran, said, "Most of the individual works are very subtle in their use of color, often nearly monochromatic, and attain their richness and depth through a combination of gouache, pastel, and other techniques. These all confirm Sklenar's exceptional ability to communicate across continents and differing cultures."
The Monkey King has been a hit with the Chinese public as they visit the Czech Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo.
The fairytale world of the Monkey King comes to life in an exceptional combination of the old legend, the graphically and artistically unique Sklenar illustrations and the highly imaginative animations with the very latest in interactive technology.
According to the Czech ambassador to China, Libor Secka, Zdenek Sklenar and his Monkey King returning to China are a reminder of the exceptional, exciting, open, and artistically precious connection between the cultures and societies of China and the Czech Republic.
The launch ceremony for the picture book was held at the Beihai Park in downtown Beijing... the same place the late Sklenar once strolled to gain artistic inspiration.