Kwan Wai Nung, the “King of Calendar Art”

Kwan Wai Nung

To follow the history of the Kwan family is to trace a complete history of Hong Kong graphic design. In 1845 the ‘China Trade’ artist Kwan Chuk Lam, known to the West as ‘Lamqua’ settled in Hong Kong. He was the only known pupil of the English painter G. Chinnery, and had exhibited paintings at the Royal Academy in the style of his master. His ‘Handsome Face Painter’ shop followed a system of serial production and a division of labour, a common practice documented in the Illustrated London News.

His descendants followed this commercial principle, moving into the related fields of photography, lithography, poster design and advertising, a family that today numbers more than a hundred.

Kwan Wai Nung 1 original painitng

A Kwan Wai Nung painting on a poster – Beauty with Lychees, Hong Kong

Kwan Wai Nung (b 1880) learned Western painting from his family and Chinese painting with Gui Koo Chuen. Kwan was employed as a printer, producing the first five-colour lithographic works in China, and in 1911 became Art Director of the South China Morning Post, leaving in 1915 to found the Asiatic Lithographic Printing Press Ltd. Art and business were to Kwan wholly compatible”.

Kwan Wai Nung became the ‘King of Calendar Art’ during the 1920s and 30s with a series of ever more accomplished designs.

His sons and nephews established companies such as Mercantile Printing Co., Tin Chun Lithographic Press, Golden Key Advertising Co. and Paramount Co. 

From  Made in Hong Kong: A History of Export Design in Hong Kong 1900-1960, The Urban Council, May 1988

Hugh Farmer: You will find in The Enchanting Years… link below further details about Kwan Wai Nung and examples of his beguiling art promoting a variety companies in Hong Kong through calendars and posters.

The companies advertised in this link are:

Asiatic Lithographic Printing Press
Australian-Oriental Line Ltd
Bakilly Cosmetics Co Ltd
Bit Tak Sing Pharmacy
JS Fry & Sons Ltd
Hong Kong Brewers & Distilleries Ltd
Ka Wah Bank Co Ltd
Kwong Sang Hong Ltd
Kwong Sun Co Ltd
Lin Heung Cake Shop
The National Lacquer & Products Co Ltd
Shui Cheung Pharmacy
Tak Wan Cake Shop
The Tokio Marine and Fire Insurance Co Ltd
Wing On Co Ltd

The Enchanting Years – A Donation from the Kwan Family Courtesy of The Hong Kong Heritage Museum and Kwan Family

This article was first posted on 10th August 2014.


  2. further infomation about Kwan Wai Nung and his family

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