Sun, Jul 27, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Painting a picture of Taiwanese women

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

Pondering at Leisure, by Chen Chin.

PHOTO COURTESY OF NATIONAL MUSEUM OF HISTORY

Over the coming month, the National Museum of History will be showcasing a selection of works by one of Taiwan's earliest, most celebrated and influential female artists, Chen Chin (陳進).

Born in Hsinchu in 1907, Chen was the first Taiwanese female artist to study in Japan. She studied at the Tokyo Fine Arts Girls School under the guidance of some of Japan's leading artists. Even at such a young age her works were so sought after and her style so respected that critics dubbed her "the female genius of the Southern Sea."

Chen's repertoire included landscapes and still-life, but it was her portraits of ladies and her ability to transform a painting into an image that incorporated a genuine feel for the era in which they were created that was to prove her enduring legacy.

By the time she passed away in 1998, Chen had become not only one of Taiwan's most prominent and eminent artists, but her works were taking pride of place in museums and galleries throughout Europe and the Americas.

Incorporating 32 of her works dating from 1932 through 1998, The Beauty of Chen Chin's Ladies (陳進仕女之美) is subdivided into two parts -- Modern Lady and Traditional Mother, two sections that reflect the two distinctive periods of her life.

Beginning with Modern Lady, the exhibition takes the viewer through Chen's early unmarried days form between 1925 and 1945. Her eye for detail saw her create works that depicted both the fashions, hairstyles as well as the mannerisms and moods of young ladies of the day.

Works such as her celebrated 1936 Applying Make-up (化妝) and her 1939 The Sound of Firecrackers (爆音) are vivid and the figures Chen creates are sharp and possess auras of sophistication and refinement, much like the artist herself.

The latter part of the exhibition, Traditional Mother deals with Chen's works from 1945 through 1998. Here viewers see how Chen's marriage, motherhood and life as a grandmother changed her outlook on both life and art and saw her style changing in subtle yet noticeable ways.

In later works such as 1968's Fragrant Orchids (香蘭) and 1977's Motherly Love (親情) Chen's brush is less sharp and the contours of her figures are rounded and possess a homely and motherly feel.

Regardless of which chapter of Chen's life the viewer chooses to enjoy, the current exhibition gives a highly appealing overview of not only the life of one of Taiwan's foremost artists. It is also an interesting insight into the changing fashions and mannerisms of Taiwanese women as see through Chen's eyes.

The Beauty of Chen Chin's Ladies (陳進仕女之美) will be on display at the National Museum of History (國立歷史博物館), 49, Nanhai Rd, Taipei (台北市南海路49) until Aug. 24.

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