Art Brokerage: Cao Young. In 1962, at the height of the great famine in China, an extraordinarily gifted child was born into hardship in Xinxian, a small town in Henan Province. Cao Yong's family, already struggling to find enough to eat, was suspected of disloyalty to the new government simply because a great-grandparent had once owned land, real estate, and banks, and because a grandparent had been a warlord. During the Cultural Revolution, this background singled the family out for harsh treatment by the Chinese authorities. Cao Yong's family was ostracized, refused residency permits, and even denied food. While other young children of his age started kindergarten, little Cao Yong began working. At age five, Cao Yong found himself ferrying heavy baskets of gravel at a construction site. One day a rock pit caved in, nearly crushing the tiny boy to death under the rubble. Luckily, Cao Yong survived. It was through drawing that Cao Yong found peace and consolation in those difficult years, and at age eleven his talent was recognized. He began studying with the noted artist Yu Ren from Beijing, who worked briefly in Xinxian. The shadow of ostracism followed him even to art classes, but Cao Yong's remarkable persistence challenged him to paint, and to paint better, each day. In order to buy art supplies, he pawned his winter clothes in summer, his summer clothes in winter, and often skipped meals. He painted on any material he could find: scraps of used wrapping paper, newspaper, discarded wooden boards. When his mother brought him a bundle of dirty cloth which she had begged a shop clerk to give to her, Cao Yong burst into tears of joy: at last he had canvas!
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