• Chinese 20th Century Art (Day  auction at Christies

    Sale 2725

    Chinese 20th Century Art (Day Sale)

    30 November 2009, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1376

    CHEN YIFEI

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    CHEN YIFEI
    (1946-2005)
    Day Begins (Suzhou)
    signed 'Chen Yifei' in Pinyin; dated '1990' (lower left)
    oil on canvas
    105.2 x 74.5 cm. (41 3/8 x 29 3/8 in.)
    Painted in 1990


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    In the autumn of 1982, Chen Yifei returned to China and collected materials in the waterside villages (Shui Xiang) of Jiangnan, an area in the South of the Yangtze River famous for its scenic beauty. With its unique ambiance, the villages of Jiangnan have earned the reputation as the "Venice of the East". They have also served as a wellspring of inspiration for many poets and painters throughout the history of China. To Chen, these villages by the water were filled with the memories of his youth. The times spent in foreign countries had deepened his love for China, which became more acute and intense than ever. Chen then translated his own memories, emotions, and patriotic sentiments into artistic creativity.

    Day Begins (Suzhou) (Lot 1376) from 1990 is a mature work by Chen Yifei painted after an extensive study on the theme of waterside villages of Jiangnan. The original owner of Day Begins (Suzhou), Michael S. Currier, became passionate about contemporary Chinese art after he paid a visit to his grandfather, David K.E. Bruce, in Beijing in the 1970s. Currier was the first American officer appointed to station at the liaison office (consulate office of today) in Beijing during the time of President Nixon in 1973. After the death of Currier in an accident, the Currier family sold the important works of modern and contemporary Chinese art in their collection, such as works by Lin Fengmian, Wu Zuoren, Wu Guanzhong, Liu Xiaodong, Yu Hong and Wei Ershen, through Christie's Hong Kong in 2002. Day Begins (Suzhou) is a work returned to Asia after that auction.


    Chen Yifei believed that "art should have an influential social function besides being appreciated and comforting people. It is not merely a visual art form which creates aesthetic; it preserves a tranquil environment, structures social ethics and moral, and purifies the human soul." The Jiangnan landscape in Day Begins (Suzhou) is not only charming, but is also permeated with a solemn spirituality. Chen Yifei uses his delicate frosting technique with layers of paint and refined brushstrokes to depict the village houses of black tiles and white walls. By painting the tiles cleaned by morning dew, it signifies brightness coming after the dark and every day is a new hope. The sight of the back of the lady who is walking up the stairs in the painting reiterates the artist's message above. Chen Yifei achieves an admirable composition in the painting. He simplifies the complex structure of the nostalgic stone house at the road side by depicting the roof, walls and stairs with linear and diagonal lines, skillfully showing the aesthetic of lines. The harmony between the soft lines and the dark tone is not only a visual effect that is impressive to the eyes; it touches and purifies our heart and soul, creates a peaceful moment for us to indulge in.


    Provenance

    Property from the Currier Collection, USA
    Christie's Hong Kong, 27 October 2002 Lot 179
    Acquired from the above by the present owner


    Literature

    Asian Art Blooming Publishing Ltd. (ed), Huayi Publishing House, Project planned by Hammer Publishing, New York, Chen Yifei, Beijing, China, 1990 (illustrated, plate 50, unpaged).