Chen cheng-po's paintings embody the essence of Eastern and Western art; they also reflect his passion, honest and sensitive characteristics. His broad vision and sharp observation brought him under the spotlight in the Chinese modern painting world. Born in 1895, Chen devoted his entire life to his country, his hometown, his family, and art creation. He studied under a Japanese art teacher Kinichiro Ishikawa since he was very young. He first practiced sketching in Taiwan, and moved to Tokyo to study Western painting. Later, he moved to Shanghai and developed a style in which "East-meets-West". During his stay in Shanghai, both Chinese literati ink-wash tradition and Western paintings inserted huge influences on him. Shanghai in the early 20th century was politically very unstable. Such a condition attracted many Chinese artists who were deeply influenced by Western modern art theories. As soon as Chen was graduated from the Western Painting Department in Tokyo School of Arts, he went to Shanghai to teach art in 1929. Chen was a member of Juelan, the Storm Art Society, from 1931 to 1932, and befriended many artists like Pan Yu-liang and Wang Ji-yuan. Through these artists, Chen gained much exposure to Western style of painting especially the School of Paris. Chen's experiences in Shanghai were instrumental to his artistic development. He once said that he was very much indebted to two Chinese ink painting masters, Bada Shanren and Ni Zan, from whom he absorbed the use of lines and dry brush. Bada Shanren and Ni Zan are leading figures in traditional Chinese ink-wash paintings, they mastered in capturing the unfathomable mood and ambience and transforming it into a visual language. Forms and shapes are not the main concern of the artists in their creations but instead the "a sense of atmosphere". Chen employed such concept in his sketches and life drawings in oil paint. Chen's four works in the sale were all created during his stay in Shanghai. The oil paintings of traditional Chinese landscapes, while painted by the artist with Western techniques, exude a kind of literati temperament. The sketches made between 1931 and 1932 also bear lines and dry brushstrokes that Chen learned from his predecessors.
At Leisure below the Pagoda Hill (Lot 150) is a 1933 work made before Chen Cheng-po moved back to Taiwan from Shanghai. Towers at the peak of mountains are often seen in many of Chen's sketches, projecting the artist's careful thoughts to make this final painting. From the composition of the sketch (Fig. 1), one can see similarities between the sketch and the painting, including the positions of the cottages beneath the tower and those at the mountainside. On the left hand side of the sketch, it's inscribed as "the fifth journey to Mount Hui, 1931.8.13". This may imply that this oil painting was created by Chen during his visit to Mount Hui in Wuxi, Jiangsu as an expression of his feelings towards the marvelous scenery. The S-shaped composition in this painting was inspired by his teacher, Kinichiro Ishikawa. It directs viewers' attention to the tower far away on the mountain top. Two paths converge into one running up the hill. The climbers create an upward dynamic that leads the gaze of the viewers to the tower. The woman holding a baby in the front catches viewers' eye at first sight. In Shanghai, Chen started to explore the techniques of traditional Chinese ink-wash paintings. He came to grasp the methodology of Bada Shanren and Ni Zan to derive an intuitive feeling from subjective observation. By investigating and practicing free style, hence creating free style paintings. In the picture, Chen delineated branches and leaves with sweeping strokes, trees came to life with the breeze stirring the leaves. The motion of the climbers is further enhanced by the Fauvist-like red colour. The baby in the mother's arms is coloured in a lighter green, in contrast with the dark green in the background, he looks secluded and quiet. At Leisure below the Pagoda Hill is one of Chen's masterpieces painted in his late years in Shanghai, it is a great work that internalises Chen Cheng-po's endless effort in bringing the East and West painting techniques together.