• Chinese 20th Century Art (Day  auction at Christies

    Sale 2725

    Chinese 20th Century Art (Day Sale)

    30 November 2009, Hong Kong

  • Lot 1349


    Price Realised  


    (CHEN YINPI, 1913-1995)
    Behind the Screen
    signed 'GEO CHANN' in English (upper left)
    oil on canvas
    46.5 x 36 cm. (18 3/8 x 14 1/8 in.)
    Painted circa 1940

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    Many of the Chinese artists in foreign countries, including George Chann, carried a strong nostalgic sentiment towards their native culture. Although he used a medium that was western oriented, his works expressed a powerful Chinese reminiscence. At the age of twelve, Chann followed his father to travel to the US and in 1934; he enrolled in Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, receiving an all-round Western art education. In the early period, Chann experienced a realistic style in painting portraiture, landscape, etc.; in the later period he achieved his artistic climax through a series of abstract work. Created in the 1940's, Behind the Screen (Lot 1349) has the kind of indoor lighting and female nudity pertinent to traditional European realism. The artist was brought up in hardship, apparent in his modeled figures painted with strong humanistic colors and striking brushworks that recalls the abstract characters of his later series of work. It was after 1960's that Chann developed richer colors and a varying palette. In The Morning of Spring (Lot 1350), the towering mountain reminds one of the Northern Song's monumental landscape paintings, reflecting the artist's return to exploring the origin of Chinese culture.

    With the mannerism of Western Abstract Art and his inspiration from Chinese characters, Chann has found his unique style. Ablaze (Lot 1351) vividly shows the multi-layer effects resulted from the multi-media explorations; care-free expression of sentiments of oil painting and also the various textures produced by folds and layers of rice paper-collage. Their aesthetic appeal lies in their balancing of visual elements with tactile, textural effects, direct tension and attraction of the materials themselves, through which the gradual accumulation and inheritance of the ancient Chinese culture are shaped. Flourishing Impression (Lot 1352) reflects the artist's virtuoso brushwork developed since the 1980's. While the strength and interceptions are still robust, the clear outlines of characters are no longer present, with the wonderful color combination and the rhythmic changes becoming focal point of the painting. The dominant red tone of the painting has a strong Chinese flavor as red symbolizes nobleness and auspiciousness in Chinese tradition. Chann had departed from characters' ideogrammatic function and symbolic meanings but continued to use the pure abstract lines to crisscross and produce fascinating colors. As George Chann once said, "Chinese artists paint with their minds while Western artists paint with their eyes", he incorporated modernist abstract thought as well as Chinese connotations endowed with rich historical culture, to fully express it into his art.


    Private collection, San Francisco


    Views from Asian California 1920-1965: An Illustrated History by Michael D. Brown, San Francisco, USA, 1992 (illustrated, p. 16).
    Hsiung Shih Art Monthly, Taipei, Taiwan, January, 1995 (illustrated, p. 95).


    San Francisco, USA, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, George Chann's Solo Exhibition, 6 February-6 March, 1942.
    Los Angeles, USA, Los Angeles Museum of Art, George Chann's Solo Exhibition, September, 1942.
    Los Angeles, USA, Biltmore Art Gallery, George Chann's Solo Exhibition, December, 1942.
    New York, USA, Newhouse Galleries, Chinese, Mexican and American Subjects, 10-27 November, 1943.