executed circa 1950s.
oil on canvas
Acquired by a French collector from the artist's friend Wang Shouyi
Private Asian Collection (Christie's, Taipei, 1998)
The Portrait of Chinese Painting in 20th Century, Taihoo Art Gallery, Taipei, 2007, p. 37, illustrated in colour
China's first generation of female artists, Pan Yuliang has been acclaimed as the leading female master of the 20th Century Chinese art. Regardless of the hardship and difficulties she had in her life, she still held on to her beliefs and principles. Not only did she play an important role in Chinese art history, but she also made herself a legendary name in China.
Moonlight Sonata was completed in the 1950s when Pan went back to France for the second time in her life. This piece depicts a girl wearing Chinese style clothing and playing the pipa, a Chinese string instrument in the night of a full moon. The viewer can witness her elegant posture and serene facial expression through Pan's finely detailed brushstrokes and her use of lines. With Chinese ink painting style, she has exquisitely conveyed the girl's hands and face. This painting is a scene reminiscent of the first time Pan Yulaing met Pan Zanhua in a brothel.
According to Yuan Yue, the author of When the Red Flowers Bloom, upon Pan Zanhua's arrival in Wuhu City as a government official, the local businessmen invited him to a dinner in a brothel to celebrate. They asked a girl to sing for Pan Zanhua and that girl was Pan Yuliang. As she began playing her pipa she sang him a poem about distress and sorrow. Pan Zanhua could not help but to care for this poor girl and so this fateful encounter brought them together and eventually lead to their marriage. The poem entitled A Fortune Teller reads:
Not fond of an immoral life,
But it seems I am destined to be wiled.
Flowers blossom and wither at times,
Only the empire could decide.
I will be gone in the end,
But how to live my current life?
If you see a wreath around my head,
Don't ask me where I am.1
Moonlight Sonata is undoubtedly the artist's self portrait. Pan expresses her longing for her hometown and family through this painting. It is a defining work representing the artist's artistic creation and where her true emotions laid bare.
 Yuan Yue, ed., When the Red Flowers Bloom, China Radio & Television Publishing House, Beijing, 2010, p. 115
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