A Museum for Tushanwan

by on Tuesday, 29 September 2009 Comments
Shanghai World Fair comes with a surprise: The Tushanwan Museum, to be opened in May next year, celebrates the Tushanwan Training Studio and Orphanage established in 1852 by Jesuit missionaries. A project managed by the Xuhui District Cultural Bureau.

The founder of the workshop was the Jesuit Spanish Brother Juan Ferrer born near Valencia in 1817. His father had been a distinguished sculptor who had worked on the decoration of the Escorial Palace. He entered the Jesuit order in Naples where he was completing his artistic education and, on his request, was sent to China in 1847. He drew the blueprint of several churches of Shanghai and contributed in their decoration. With the approval of his superiors he founded a training workshop in Xujianhui (Zi-ka-wei), the domain where Jesuits in Shanghai were gathering their various works and schools, in 1852. The workshop educated outstanding Chinese sculptors and painters, working first for religious buildings and later on extending the range of its activities. Juan Ferrer died a premature death in 1856.

Other professors and artists at the orphanage included Brother Nicolas Massa (1815-1870) who taught oil painting, Brother Lu Baidu (1836-1880), Brother Adolphe Vasseur (1828-1899), and, most notably, Brother Liu Bizhen (1845-1912).

In 1864, an orphanage founded by the Jesuits was transferred to Tushawan (Tu-se-wé) on the periphery of the Xujiahui domain, and the workshop became a part of it, providing artistic and technical education to the orphans. Printing, woodwork, music and other trades were added to the curriculum.

Tushanwan played a key role in the development of modernism in Shanghai. The center had a casting plant, a printing press, a photolithography workshop and a stained-glass making facility. Tushanwan’s graduates often went on to teach other craftsmen and artists.

tusewei-8_rAround 1886, there were 342 orphans living in Tushanwan, 133 of them receiving a formation in the workshop. The trades taught then included woodwork, cobbing, tailoring, sculpture, gilding, varnishing, painting, weaving, engraving and printing. For a time, agriculture was part of the formation, but the experiment was interrupted. From 1870 on, book printing became one of the main activities of the workshop. After 1876, former students of the orphanage, working in different workshops around Shanghai, started to inhabit houses built nearby the orphanage, shaping a distinctive village life.

The sculptor Zhang Chongren, who was the friend of Hergé and was immortalized by him as the ’Tchang’ character of the Blue Lotus and Tintin in Tibet, was a pupil of the school and became later on the director of the Shanghai Arts Academy.

The last director of the workshop was another Spanish brother, native from San Sebastian, Jose Antonio Navascues (1910-1979). The son of a painter, he brought to the workshop his gift in this discipline and in the making of glass-window.

No doubt that the opening of the museum will give light to the international history of Shanghai and retrieve some of its diversity and uniqueness.

The Official Xuhui District Website

Cerise Phiv (張俐紫)

Former Managing Editor of eRenlai.com


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