Anyone wishing to familiarize themselves with a few of the most renowned contemporary Chinese painters of the early 20th is advised to check out Lin and Keng Gallery over the next few weeks. Taipei's commercial gallery is playing host to a collection of works from five artists who earned not only a name but a good price for their prized paintings.
Unfamiliar to several art collectors, Wu Da-yu (吳大羽) is often overlooked in the pantheon of famous Chinese painters. He was, however, one of the forerunners of a movement that blended European and Chinese concepts of art. He is one of the first to have studied in Europe before returning to China to teach. It was during his studies that Wu began experimenting with expressionism and cubism. Several of his works were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution (1966 to 1976). Those painted after, including the pieces on display now, are mostly smaller abstract bright and colorful paintings.
More widely known among the domestic art circle is Lin Feng-mian (林風眠), who co-founded the Hangzhou Arts School with Wu. Referred to as the godfather of modern Chinese art, Lin, like his partner, also choose to study the techniques of European artists in France and Germany. While Lin's work is reminiscent of expressionist painters it is always within the context of traditional Chinese painting. His works on show are mostly portraits of women, which use Western techniques but have strong Asian flavor. His blue and purple colorings give them a lively effect, almost to the point of
A student of Wu and Lin, Zao Wou-ki (趙無極) attended their art school in Hangzhou. Unlike his instructors he did not study in France, but did move there later in his career. His work is a combination of traditional Chinese landscapes and abstract art. His later works are more abstract and this aspect is illustrated in his paintings of barely recognizable landscapes, also on display. His works are the most interesting and his use of color and light creates a chaotic yet tranquil effect.
Fetching upwards of NT$15 million for his works, Sanyu (常玉), like Zao is considered to be one of the most sought after Chinese artists. Unlike Zao, however, Sanyu did not live to see the fruits of his labor. A large portion of his paintings are female nudes in which he uses techniques similar to those used in Chinese calligraphy. There are no naked women on display at the gallery, but there is a collection of classic floral stills. His series of pink chrysanthemums have a unique charm in the way they combine light brushstrokes and soft coloring, yet manage to avoid being dull like so many floral stills.
Unlike a large number of artists during the 1920s, including those mentioned above, Yun Gee (朱沅芷) opted for the US, where he studied and experimented with modern art styles. Eventually, however, he followed the trend and moved to Paris where his work began to gain credibility among intellectuals and the art crowd. He is said to have preferred painting abstract human forms using a cubist style. His paintings at the gallery illustrate his learned techniques but are less abstract then some of his later pieces.
Given the limited space inside the gallery the collection of paintings only scratches the surface of the early 20th century Chinese art movement. It does, however, provide a short but sweet introduction to those that launched it.