Chinese Oil Painting Reproductions

My spam folder is kept full each day with at least 400 emails.. day after day.. and among the promises of lengthened manhood and pre-approved loans are emails with titles like “Cheap China Wholesale Paintings” and “Oil Paintings from China.”

I have also heard from angry contemporary artists wanting to expose Chinese art factories for ripping off their art and profiting from it.

So, even though I don’t know much about these Chinese painting factories, I don’t think very highly of them. Being a spammer or ripping off working artists is no way to build respect.

chinese art factoriesMost of the famous painting reproductions of new and old masters coming out of China come from Dafen, the Art Factory Village in southern China.

James Fallows of the Atlantic says “in one sprawling area are many hundreds of individual art factories, in which teams of artists crank out hand-painted replicas of any sort of picture you can imagine. European old masters. Andy Warhol. Gustav Klimt. Classic Chinese landscapes. Manet. Audubon. Botero. The super-hot and faddish contemporary Chinese artist Yue Minjun, whose paintings and sculptures all feature people wearing enormous grins.” The Atlantic

Evan Osnos at the Chicago Tribune talks more about the art village of Dafen in China. “In tiny garrets and vast factories, a few centuries’ worth of art emerges each day in the southern Chinese town of Dafen. In barely as much time as it took Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel, this village has become one of the world’s largest producers of art, shipping more than $120 million last year in copied and original oil paintings to stores near you.” Chicago Tribune

Here’s an interesting quote on the Tribune article from a Chinese artist / factory chief..

“A single painting is art. If you produce it in large quantities, it’s an industry.”

Robert Genn has also talked about Chinese copies in his newsletter.

Jan 09 Update: I have turned comments off on this post because of continual abuse from Chinese spammers posting hundreds of links to their crappy Chinese oil painting reproduction websites. Yet another reason to buy paintings from your own country and not support the lawlessness and abuse that many of these Chinese painting factories inflict upon the world. I have been deleting their spam for almost a year on this post, so they’re persistent and I was patient until now!

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. I always wondered how and what part of China all of that came from. It’s fascinating. Huge facories of artist’s in horrible conditions, but living in a large community all made up of artists. There’s got to be some good unknown stories there.

  2. Well, while I’m against bad working conditions and art copies it’s worth remembering that not all reproduction companies are bad. Let’s not demonize an entire industry (which is not fine art) because of the actions of only some of the companies. There are many of these producers in Eastern Europe, too, by the way. This is just another industry and if the works are original and don’t infringe on anyone else’s copyright I don’t see why people should be denied a living wage. A living wage in some countries is vastly different to what someone in the US or UK would find acceptable. (Although possibly not, we have quite enough people living poverty here too.)

    That quote seems odd to me though. Surely that would make Warhol’s output not art? And also the work of daily painters, and other producing high quantities (but still high quality) of artwork.

  3. One of the faculty in my MFA program for Fine Arts, Kieth Howard, has embraced these reproductions as an extension of his art.

    Recently, he composed an image digitally and commissioned its completion by a Chinese reproduction artist in oil. It spurred quite a bit of discussion among the grads and faculty on the topic of collaboration versus exploitation.

    Knowing that this discussion was partly Kieth’s intent, I found it a rather engaging concept.

    (Both artists were credited in signature.)

  4. Tina, I thought that quote was very Andy Warhol. Being called an “industry” would have made his day.

    Charlie, Im surprised more artists havent been employing artists in China and regions where work is cheap. If they arent already, I’m sure artists like Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst have thought about sending their work offshore.

  5. The thing to remember about China, is that they dont have intellectual property rights there..its considered acceptable to copy anothers work.

    There have been instances of ebay artists being copied by Chinese painters, who have then gone on and listed the reproduction on ebay! So, some Chinese painters may be unaware their reproduction breaches copyright. I’m sure these huge factories are getting the hand of it nowadays, though. Shame their skills can be used on other, more positive ways.

  6. t’s not just the cheep art sold at discount prices that is the real issue here. We all know when we see a discount priced painting that it isn’t fine art. But when someone claims to have painted them themselves,that can be called nothing less than fraud and deception.
    The real tragedy is that the fame and profit is gained at the expense of sweatshop laborers who work 18 hours a day 7 days a week and make less than $30 per month. These Chinese painters are talented and work hard but receive no credit for their work. They live in dormitories and are slave labor in every sense of the word. Fair Trade is not even a consideration in these imported fakes.
    The con-artists who import, sign and sell these paintings as their own are becoming known as some of the most talented artists in America.
    Typically an imported Chinese painting will cost about $50, of which the factory worker receives about half, while the so called American artist is getting $5000.
    The way I look at it is that if it’s sold as a Chinese paint over print, then great. And if someone is crazy enough to pay $5000 for it, then that’s up to them. But to perpetrate fraud and deception is not only morally wrong it could be illegal.
    The scam artist I bought a painting from is the Featured Artist at the most well known International Spiritual Center in Culver City California. I can only hope that the Reverend and his staff are unaware of the fraudulent practice which is lining the walls of the sanctuary.

  7. Hey guys,

    This is Emma, from Dafen Village. I was interested in knowing how people all look at Dafen painting industry, so I came and read all your comments. As a Chinese painting exporter, I wish to thank you guys for taking Dafen in a pretty fair way, while I have below thoughts:

    1. Dafen village is working hard to serve the world with more paintings and art.

    2. We are serious painters and exporters, we custom make paintings according to your requirements, we deliver cheap paintings as well as real fine art.

    3. We are having more orginals coming out, if given better fames and chances.

    4. Dafen is trying hard to build up a better image, yes, we are working on it!

  8. Hi Emma,

    That’s an interesting point you have made.

    I’m in the trade as well. My artists are paid well for there work, they are some of the highest paid artisans in the country.

    There are still some bad employers out there, this is the same with any business.

    Good luck!

  9. I suggest people should buy factory art, to fill walls with pleasurable cheap things and give artists in repressive countries a job, after all, creativity is the key to any ‘rebellion’ and art stirs up passion.

    We should also support our local arts and artists. Dig in and find out about the artist and ask them for a written statement on the piece you want, connect with social media etc.

    We most likely will never know who painted any of the Chinese factory paintings, no matter how much joy the art might bring but we can celebrate the local artist.

  10. I couldnt agree more with your second statement Darren. There’s simply no need to buy cheap imports when there’s art schools in our own back yard with students almost giving away good quality paintings. There’s also thousands of emerging artists with websites online, selling affordable, quality art in every country of the world.

    Im not against any particular country, I’m FOR buying local. If I was in China I would buy Chinese art. But I’m not, so I wouldnt buy them.

    I’m all for supporting local artists.. until I’m a billionaire and start buying

  11. Anonymous says:

    There’s simply no need to buy cheap imports when there’s art schools in our own back yard with students almost giving away good quality paintings.

    Well, not in the UK there isn’t. I would really like a painting that looks like something I recognise and they aren’t going to charge me several thousand pounds for. This is the sort of thing they come up with in this country:-

    It’s a link to the art school from my old university.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think that link worked:-

  13. There’s smaller schools around that teach traditional forms of painting too Anon. Not all schools think that traditional drawing and painting skills are no longer needed. You might just have to look a bit harder.

  14. I have the same problem everyday with my art site , i receive tons of junk mails. It’s sad to imagine that there are artists in the world that are obliged to make reproductions or copy and thata haven’t the freedom to create their own style.

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