Lady Playing Music
signed 'Chen Yifei' in Pinyin (lower right)
oil on canvas
63 x 59.8 cm. (24 3/4 x 23 1/2 in.)
SEIBU Department Store, Tokyo, Japan
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
SEIBU Department Store, Chen Yifei, exh. cat., Tokyo, Japan, 1990 (illustrated, p.29).
Tokyo, Japan, Ikebukuro SEIBU Department Store, Chen Yifei, 1990.
Sale room notice
Please kindly note that this lot is withdrawn.

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Lot Essay

A breakthrough of realistic painting in China
Since the late 1920s, artists and educators who were led by Xu Beihong provided education of Western Classical Realistic Arts. Due to the political status of China, realism became the mainstream for oil painting in China between 1950s and 1970s. The first two generations of Chinese oil painting such as Xu Beihong, Yan Wenliang, Wu Zuoren, Lu Sibai and so on established a deep foundation for realistic painting instilled with humanistic spirit.

Most of the third generation of realistic painters in China found fame during the 1980s when they experienced the drastic changes in society after China's Reform. While social structure diversified and evolved since China's Reform and Open Door Policy in 1978, Chinese Art was also quietly brewing a revolutionary change as receptive artists began to express their self-awareness and personal commentary through creation. The reality of the political and cultural upheaval further heightened their truthful observation, where they were able to break new grounds for realist paintings in evolving various forms and styles, progressively paving ways towards the international art platform.

Romantic Realism
Chen Yifei was a Shanghai artist, who lived in America, but an artist who refined and embraced his roots as he successfully introduced Chinese oil paintings to the western audience. Creating paintings that articulated rich emotions through humane subject matters of landscapes of Southern China or in simple yet delicate language of portraitures, he was said to be a bridge of exchange for Western and Chinese culture in 1980s.

In 1984, the New York Times and Art News coined the term "romantic realism" to describe the style of Chinese artist Chen Yifei, affirming the inner, emotional energy of Chen's works and its poignant effect in deeply moving the hearts of the audience.

The "Musician Series" adeptly reveals Chen's insight into the innermost world of people and his acute sensitivity towards the external environment. The success for his "Musician Series" is due to Chen Yifei's astute use of character modeling, lighting and composition to guide the audience to observe and appreciate beyond their perceptive eye, sharpening their sensibilities to feel the harmony of music and to admire human ability to create beautiful things; thus, disclosing the artist's endeavor to explore and harmonize on the relationship between things and the inner linkage between painting and music.
Combing classical and modern painting skills.

Female Musician (Lot 10017) is depicted in superb realism with Chen Yifei's proficient layering of thick colors with a matte finish; the black and shiny hair, the white and fine skin, the beautiful eyes, the sparkling jewel earrings, and the raw silk gown are all described in shimmering vitality, a sense of existence further expressed by the three dimensionality of the character's posture by Chen's intentional emphasis on the delicate yet detailed contouring of the musician's face.

Eye sight, facial expression and body shape are undoubtedly the most important elements in a realistic oil painting as a channel for communication and exchange. Chen decidedly disregards the frontal depiction of the female musician, and has staged the side of the musician to position the protagonist with her face subtly titled upwards; her eyes gaze to a distant place, standing tall with graceful poise.

To further enrich his poignant artistic vocabulary, Chen knowingly accentuates the body movement of the female musician, noting the body language of the classical Realism and the abstract concept of the modern Western art, echoing the aesthetic principles of Vassily Kandinsky and Kazimir Severinovich in restoring human bodies and things into points, lines and surfaces. Chen chose the side of the female musician as the decisive compositional angle in construing the overall painting; the right arm and the forearm of the musician form a right angle gracefully, and the back of her left forearm forms a line, echoing with the lute strings at different undulation and angles, hence a visual outcome that is clear and bright, as well as full of rhythm. The viewers are not only in awe of the romantic and realist description of the musician, but are rather encapsulated by the tangible intimacy crafted by Chen in his premeditated rhythmic composition, where they experience the visual music of her graceful presence as an audience of her concert.

Exploiting the black as the background
Chen's bold choice for black as the background color of the painting traces back to the characteristics of Classical oil painting of the west. The theatrical effect of black is striking, an impression dramatic as the paintings by the masters of chiroscuro, Caravaggio or Rembrandt. The use of black can intensify the light, focused on the face of the character, further highlighting the facial contour, expression, and the beautiful body shape, while simultaneously exhibit an artificial constraints of time and space, which hold a symbolic effect in that such beauty and harmony, can overcome time and space, and even last eternally.

The classic of European Classical realism - Caravaggio
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio had made a great influence to the 16th century European Classical paintings. Caravaggio successfully presented the scenes of histories which were recorded literally in the Bible, through his paintings, those scenes can be shown vividly to the modern people. After the careful analysis, the characters' personalities and thoughts that were describe in the Bible were delicately expressed. His portraits have dramatic arrangement, just like the light effect on the stage, often using high bright light colors to depict the characters in a dark background.

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