"I sought for beauty with the innocent passion that was my nature; I rushed headlong into the great mansions of art and never looked back. I paint directly from natural scenes because I revere nature and I believe in the strength and inspiration within it. Only direct contact with nature can bring the self together with the unlimited and show us nature's purest and most moving aspect."
- Yang Sanlang
Yang Sanlang's account of his experience gives us a glimpse of the vision and creative quest of the vanguard of Taiwanese artists, who borrowed natural and realist concepts but developed their own style with a strong, local Taiwanese flavor. During 1920s to early 1930s, due to its near geographical location to Japan, Taiwan, like
Japan, absorbed western styles, rediscovering traditional oriental aesthetics, moving into a deeper exploration of the "Japanization" of western painting. In that period, Umehara Ryuzaburo was a chief representative of these artists who were educated in western styles but who emphasized personal, subjective views and eastern aesthetics.
The modern art thinking and realist ideas they brought back to Taiwan broke through painting traditions that stretched all the way back to the literati of the Fujian, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang regions. By the time of the first National Taiwan Exhibition in 1927, critical opinion in Taiwan's official and academic circles was united in the desire for modern painting styles capable of conveying its rich local color and the atmosphere of the southern regions that derived from the island's unique climate and beautiful natural scenery.
The most highly regarded works in Yang Sanlang's oeuvre are the depictions of outdoor natural scenes. The artist's love and intense zeal find their counterparts in his depiction of long shorelines, distinguished by endlessly varied hues of ocean and sky and the surging wash of spray against the coast. In a manner similar to Monet's own fascination with the sea in his later years, Yan Sanlang's interpretation of the subject was fashioned by an artistic style upon this very idea: immersing himself in the natural scenery with sharp sensibilities to express his feeling by depicting the light and shadow of impressionist masters.
Aside from certain influences from naturalism and impressionism, Yang's work is an exploration of the mysteries of life and nature in which the painting on site brought him closer to a sense of the earth's great energies. The work Seascape (Lot 620) depicts the scene beside the harbor with a reflection of human life. A boat in the foreground, slightly skewed to the right, is balanced by the green hills behind the building, reflecting the artist's great grasp of precise composition of sketches. Mt. Fuji (Lot 621) and Garden of Monet (Lot 622) are works painted during his visit in foreign countries, where Yang absorbed and reflected the spirit of the locals. As he once said, "sketching should be not only the depiction of the image, but also a great way to present different colors and a variety of atmospheres of diverse places." In the work Mt. Fuji, Yang mainly applies blue and orange, bringing together one cold color and one warm color. We can see red trees in the front view while the adjacent lake contrasts with its light grey and blue. Meanwhile, the reflected light yellow and light pink serve perfectly, softening the whole composition. The seemingly saturated colors differ from the luscious quality of European scenery; Yang paints the Japanese mountain with great sensitivity, fully capturing its sacredness and nobility. On the other hand, Garden of Monet, with its stable composition and the use of various colors, under the proficient brushwork of our artist, is a painting with clear layers and orderly structure; large amounts of yellow take over the whole drawing, reflecting the enchanting sunshine of France.
Impressionism was regarded as the mainstream of landscape painting at the time Yang's generation was studying abroad. He also expressed his appreciation for Monet, whose former residence Yang found great pleasure in visiting and drawing. Yang created this work at the age of seventy-eight to show his admiration for Monet and perhaps to challenge himself by comparing his brushwork to that of the master. Thus, the drawing is not only a demonstration of Yang's brilliant sketching, but also an implication of looking back to his previous ambitions and self-communion, making this work highly and deeply meaningful in his creative career.