The first theme presents landscape paintings over the horizon (compositions with bottom views), exhibiting one of the earliest works by Japanese watercolor painter Kinichiro Ishikawa (1871-1945) brought from Britain to Taiwan together with sketches of watery areas in Itako, Ibaraki Prefecture. This would be a starting point to integrate Taiwan’s fine arts with those in the West plus the spread of European influences. With such a beginning, various creative styles were developed and passed on to predecessor painters in Taiwan. Exhibited here are series of works under the name of “Beautiful Hometown” by Lee Tze-Fan (1907-1989), a student of Ishikawa, including six brilliant works created during 1926 to 1945 and a posthumous work of 1989. Spectators would be able to make out the painting style, which generally lowers the horizontal lines in the composition, leaving a large sky and depicting the then European trend from the classic 19th century to outdoor scenery of nature in the 20th century. (refer to the works of eminent English painter J. M. William Turner). The transformation from classicism to impressionism would be best exemplified by Kuo Po-Chuan’s “A Scene in Beijing Outskirts” (1941). This public showing also comprises precious works exhibited for the first time by other students benefited from Ishikawa’s advice including Ni Chiang-Huai (1894-1943), Ran In-Ting (1902-1979) and Huang Yibin (1906-1983), an Yichiro Art Society member also known as Fukkawa Yibin with famous work of “Lin Family Mansion and Garden” (1942 or Showa 17).
The second theme is focused on close-range sketching with parallel perspective (close-up portraits), including Poppy Flowers (1927) and Beauty of Taiwanese Women (glue painting) by Chen Chin (1907-1998); Taichung Park (oil painting of 1936) by Lee Shih-Chiao (1908-1995); “A Snapshot of Paris” by Yang San-Lang (1907-1995), painted during his first visit to Europe; “The Water Buffalo” sculptured by Huang Tu-Shui (1895-1930); “A Pekingese Dog” by Lin Yu-Shan (ink painting); “Grapes” and “Tricolored Boats” by Kuo Hsueh-Hu (1908-2012); and “Camellia” by Hsiao Ju-Sun. All such works are nothing else but figures, still lives, flowers and scenery. Influenced by Japan and China mainland, art styles have been infused with Japanese touch and ink paintings.
The third theme is to overlook rural footprints (compositions with top views) and adore the land. Among such works, with the sky depicted gradually diminishing, most would be focused on local streets and houses with Taiwanese attributes. Examples would be “Valley” (1942) by Chen Cheng-Po (1985-1947), depicting a stream in front of his house in Lanjing Street of Chiayi City together with mountains and rivers of Taiwan, leaving only a minimized stretch of sky in the composition; “A Nude Woman at Seaside” (Exhibited in 4th Tai-Yang Exhibition in 1938) by Li Mei-Shu (1902-1983), with the horizon raised upward; and “A Girl with Flowers” (Exhibited in 3rd Taiwan Government-General Exhibition in 1940, or the Commemorative Exhibition to 2600 years of Japanese Imperial Reign, a winner of Taiwan-Japan Cultural Award); “Alley in front of the Temple” (1928) by Chen Zhih-Chi (1906-1931), the one with the most local characteristics, showing a limited stretch of sky; and various portraits of mineworkers by Hung Jui-Lin (1912-1996), depicting miners working underground as if in search of daybreak of life in the dark.
The evolvement of the three themes above can be considered as being initiated by Kinichiro Ishikawa and followed by Toho Shiotsuki (1886-1954) and others. Getting down to the earth and deeply depicting spiritual aspects to reach artists’ full potential with individual characteristics will allow fine arts in Taiwan to flourish and yield positive results for future generations to cherish.