Google Taiwan on Wednesday displayed a Google Doodle on its Taiwan portal to mark the 115th birthday of Chen Chin (陳進, 1907-1998), widely recognized as Taiwan’s first female commercial painter.
Born into an affluent family in Hsinchu, Chen began painting under the tutelage of Koto Gohara at Taipei Third Girls’ Senior High School, which today is Taipei Municipal Zhongshan Girls’ High School.
She later became the first female Taiwanese artist to study in Japan when she enrolled at the Tokyo Women’s Academy of Fine Arts in 1925.
Chen was one of three Taiwanese artists among 92 selected to exhibit at the first Taiwan Art Exhibition (Taiten) in 1927 during the Japanese colonial era, the other two being Kuo Hsueh-hu (郭雪湖) and Lin Yu-shan (林玉山).
The trio — dubbed the “Three Youths of Taiten” as they were all 19 at the time — went on to have long and illustrious careers.
Chen’s paintings were displayed at Taiten for 10 years in a row, earning her the title of the exhibition’s “reviewless painter.”
From 1934 to 1938, Chen taught art at Takao Prefecture Heito High School for Girls, which is Pingtung Girls’ Senior High School today, the first Taiwanese woman to teach at a Japanese colonial-era high school.
In 1935, Chen again made headlines when the Imperial Fine Arts Academy Exhibition in Tokyo displayed her painting Ensemble, which depicts two women dressed in typical 1930s Taiwanese upper-class style.
She returned to Taiwan for good in 1945 and in 1946 served as a juror for the first Taiwan Provincial Fine Arts Exhibition.
She remained active in Taiwan’s art community, holding solo exhibitions and forming painting groups.
Her artwork continued to be celebrated in Taiwanese art circles, and in 1986 the Taipei Fine Arts Museum curated and exhibited 80 of her paintings to mark her 80th birthday.
The “Three Youths of Taiten” reunited in 1987 for a joint exhibition at the East Gallery in Taipei.
Specializing in Eastern gouache, also known as nihonga, Chen is best known for her earlier works depicting upper-class women from the first half of the 20th century. Her works are often described as having finessed, expressive brushstrokes and a “mellow” aesthetic.
“By studying Chen’s numerous paintings in chronological order, one can trace two separate histories at once — that of Taiwan’s and that of Chen’s personal growth,” the Ministry of Culture says on its Web site on a page dedicated to Chen. “From demure women with their eyes downcast to high-spirited individuals coasting on bicycles, women’s expanding role in Taiwanese society can be witnessed in Chen’s scrolls of silk.”
“Her choice of subjects over the years also varied to reflect her roles as an independent artist, a loving wife and a doting mother,” it says.
In 1996, Chen won the National Cultural Award, along with prize money of NT$600,000 (US$18,642).
The following year she donated the money — along with NT$400,000 from her savings — to launch the Chen Chin Arts and Culture Award.
The program still receives funding from the interest generated by Chen’s NT$1 million endowment.
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