Amid the shifting historical currents and clashes of cultures at the opening of the 20th century, many notable artists believed new breakthroughs could be found in the colours of the natural world and the moods they evoke and in expressing the effects of light by means of the rhythmic interplay of color. Born in 1906 and swept up in this expanding wave of modernism, Yun Gee not only developed a unique artistic outlook, but through his continuing artistic quest, forced the world to recognize his great importance in melding the artistic ideas and philosophies of East and West.
In 1926, Yun Gee established the Modern Gallery (predecessor of the San Francisco Arts Center) with ten other artists in San Francisco, which became the first example in the 1920s of joint management of a gallery by artists on the West Coast and helped establish new opportunities for cooperation between galleries and contemporary artists. Yun Gee was the first member of the cooperative to mount a solo exhibition at the gallery, in November of that year. A number of his works were shown, and nearly all were sold during the exhibition period; among those, several were acquired by a visitor from distant Paris, the Princess Achille Murat. This fortunate meeting marked the first step toward Yun Gee's later sojourn in France.
In 1927, Yun Gee moved from San Francisco to Paris where he played a vibrant role in the city's bohemian life, forming friendships with the poets Gertrude Stein and Paul Valery and many of the salon Cubists. The artistic climate in Paris favored a return to nature and self-reflection, while the School of Paris, and in particular Cubism, reigned supreme. Artistically, Yun Gee was influenced by the surrealists of the West during this period, but in another respect, he was also intrigued by Freudian dream interpretation and psychoanalysis and still retained a strong interest in the insights of Chuang Tzu and Confucian philosophy. Gradually leaving behind the Synchromism of his San Francisco period, the artist turned toward a more natural realistic style, one which also reflected his eastern philosophical roots. Throughout his time in Paris, (1927-30 and 1936-39), he became the first Chinese artist to exhibit work in its internationally renowned salons. Yun Gee found much to appreciate in the German Blue Rider group (Der Blaue Reiter) and its style of emotional expression, as well as in a style of color-field painting founded by two American artists sojourning in Paris that was known as Synchromism. The Blue Rider group was formed around Wassily Kandinsky, whereas the artists instrumental in establishing Synchromism were Morgan Russell and Santon MacDonald-Wright; the relationship between these two major schools echoes that between Cubism and one of its branches, Orphism. Yun Gee, as the recipient of these influences, nevertheless broke through the set rules and restrictions of Cubism, introducing character studies into his paintings and thereby creating a number of enduring portrait works. The most intriguing element of these canvases is the way they transcend their original color relationships and unusual spatial proportioning to exude the artist's own imagination and richness of feeling. In them Yun Gee was working toward a style of painting uniquely his own, one embodying his personal Chinese cultural heritage, while setting out on the first steps of a matchless career in painting.
Yun Gee spent his life wandering abroad, and forever a stranger in strange lands, he yearned in his heart to return home with great accomplishments to his name. In the tenderly reflective 'Returning Home' (Lot 194), Yue dialogues his own nostalgic emotions in returning to his homeland after so many years spent in relative nomadic wandering across the globe. This is one of Yun Gee's finest and most valuable works, asYun Gee examines the nature of his own life and cultural identity as a Chinese citizen, creating one of his most successful works of that period in terms of combining eastern and western elements as well as an intensely subjective, personal sense of colour. The work projects a stunning visual spectacle through powerful but well-harmonised colours, along with a sense of nostalgia and longing. The myriad of green hues merged with the warmth of red and umber imbue a sense of welcoming warmth. With the quant village before us, with its smoking chimneys, ocean shore and winding country roads one does indeed feel a familiar sense of an idyllic home, calling to mind our own personal reflections. To Yun, this image clearly held a deep and powerful meaning; from the horse-drawn cart to the flocks of birds in the air, Yun is emotionally recalling and creating his vision of home. The aged face of the peasant seems to imbue the time and travels that have occupied Yun's own life, after the cycle of which he longs to return home. This work has become important to the further study of Yun Gee's career, helping to complete the documentary record of his accomplishments and providing a fine footnote on his stylistic development throughout his oeuvre.