Thu, Feb 08, 2007 - Page 15 News List

A century on

Li Shih-chiao's work hangs in the Presidential Office, and is usually seen only by dignitaries. Now the hoi polloi has a chance to view his paintings at a TFAM retrospective

By Noah Buchan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Still Life Flowers shows Li Shih-chiao's interest in high-modernism.


Three of Li Shih-chiao's (李石樵) paintings adorn the walls of the Presidential Office, which is a testament to the respect he earned in his lifetime. To celebrate the one-hundredth anniversary of the artist's birth, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM) will hold a retrospective of his work beginning Feb. 16.

The curators at TFAM arranged the exhibit to chart Li's development as an artist, bringing together paintings that span his long career and provide a context to show the influence he had on later generations of artists.

"You have to be determined, and willing to bear hardship," Li once remarked. "My whole life, I've seriously pursued one thing: how to paint my paintings well."

The exhibit, which reveals Li's interest in Western and Eastern artistic styles, is arranged chronologically in three sections titled refinement, metamorphosis and light.

Early in his career, Li studied under the Japanese masters Ishikawa Kinichiro and Yoshimura Yoshimatsu, painting the people and scenery of Taiwan with sparse brush strokes and solid, brilliant colors.

The first section includes paintings from the late 1920s and early 1930s, when Li was refining his style at the prestigious Tokyo School of Art. During this period he adhered to a form of realism and French Impressionism that found expression in portraits and landscapes from Taiwan, though a number of his works have Japanese subjects.

The painting Still Life, exemplifies Li's mastery of line and form, with firm brushwork and radiant colors.

At the end of World War II, earlier artistic styles went out of fashion as an influx of traditional Chinese ink painters arrived when Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and the Chinese Nationalist Party forces fled China. Unperturbed by the political atmosphere, Li explored and experimented with styles from the West, discarding the realist movement of his earlier years and immersing himself in Cubism, Expressionism, Surrealism and Symbolism.

Exhibition notes:

What: Centennial Celebration of Li Shih-chiao (1908-1995)

Where: Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Gallery 3A and 3B, 181 Zhongshan N Rd Sec 3, Taipei


When: Feb. 16 to May 6

Open: Everyday except Monday, 9:30am to 5:30pm


Li's adoption of these artistic styles fueled his creation of a novel series of paintings. Still Life Flowers, painted in 1961, is rich in symbolism and far removed from earlier works, which emphasized realism.

The third and final period of Li's output, from the early 1970s until he put the brush down twenty years later, is marked by a preoccupation with light, exemplified by his Three Graces.

It is also during this period that Li threw in his lot with a younger generation of painters who, due to the growing affluence of Taiwanese society and the consequent access to other parts of the world, focused on using art to represent the expression of ideas.

As part of the exhibition, TFAM is including related manuscripts and documents from each period to provide a context to Li's works.

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