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From imitation to creation, Chinese village paints new life

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-03-03 11:29
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Painter Zhao Xiaoyong pictured inside his studio in Dafen village. He was famous his replica Van Goghs. [Photo/Xinhua]

Zhao, who quit his job at a craft factory, started learning how to paint from scratch in 1996. He imitated Van Gogh's works via a painting album, including "sunflowers" and "almond blossoms."

He sold his first works in 1999 when an American buyer ordered 20 paintings. More orders later came from abroad, prompting Zhao to recruit apprentices.

"My wife and my younger brothers are all my students," he said with a smile. "I was even called 'China's Van Gogh' in a documentary."

Zhao and his team worked from 1 pm to 3 am painting eight pieces per person every day at most. Prices for the replicas ranged from 200 yuan (¥30) to 3,000 yuan per piece, depending on the size.

In 2008, when the economic recession hit most parts of the world, a drastic reduction of foreign orders forced Zhao to explore the domestic market. Profits kept shrinking after 2012 due to consumers' diversifying tastes and rising costs.

Since then, many painters in the village have given up making replicas and turned to innovation and creation.

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