LI SHIH CHIAO (TAIWAN, 1908- 1995)
PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT ASIAN PRIVATE COLLECTION
LI SHIH CHIAO (TAIWAN, 1908- 1995)

FLOWERS AND FRUITS

Details
LI SHIH CHIAO (TAIWAN, 1908- 1995)
FLOWERS AND FRUITS
signed in Chinese; dated '1987' (lower right)
oil on canvas
45 x 38 cm. (17 3/4 x 15 in.)
Painted in 1987
Provenance
Private Collection, Asia

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Lot Essay

Li Shih Chiao was born in 1908 in Taiwan, and in 1923, he qualified for admission to Taipei Normal School, then the only school aside from Taipei's Taihoku High School to include art in its curriculum. He studied under Ishikawa Kinichiro and decided that his life's ambition was to be a creative artist. As a result of dedicating his life to art, Li made many contributions and stuck to his artistic path even when the choice seemed to be whether to support his family or give up creative work. He traveled to Japan and entered the Tokyo School of Fine Arts in 1931. His work was selected multiple times for showings in the most prestigious art events of the day, the Imperial Exhibition and the Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition; after the Imperial Exhibition was reorganized as the Shin Bunten, he became the first Taiwanese artist ever to be awarded jury-exempt status for future exhibitions.

Li Shih Chiao was a member of the first generation of Taiwanese painters to take up Western painting, and he was firmly grounded in the fundamentals. In particular, his early attention to sketching and his excellent painting from life laid the foundation for his later work in the oil medium. He was a thoughtful painter, producing work in his early period mostly in a realistic style, with attention to the key aspects of composition, color, and light and shadow. During the '50s he joined the ranks of abstract painters, though once again his realist style was the foundation for his work; he segmented his compositions into geometric forms and depicted objects in block shapes, using his strong technical abilities in the service of his rational approach. In addition to painting in a realistic style, changes in the government regime during the 1950s-70s shifted his concerns toward social changes, reflection on his current era, his passion for political affairs, and his love for the land and the people around him. In 1982 he moved to the US, where his experiments as a mature artist led him away from abstract forms and back once again to a kind of concentrated, distilled realist style of portrayal that he developed over many years. The Li Shih Chiao oil Flowers and Fruits presented this season (Lot 49) dates from 1987, after Li's move to the US; it exudes a serene and relaxed atmosphere, combined with a sense of the artist's own deep thoughtfulness and the ambience of its own time and place.

To create this 1987 Flowers and Fruits , Li drew upon the solid foundation in sketching and painting from life he had acquired over a period of many years. In it, he rubs colors over certain parts of the canvas using a dry-brush technique; he frequently enjoyed using this technique in his oils, deliberately allowing some of the colors of his underpainting to show through, which by contrast heightens the chromatic intensity of color in his main subject. In his early works, Li often emphasized color intensity while deliberately reducing the overall brightness of his palette, but in his later work, as here, both overall brightness and color intensity have been noticeably stepped up. The first impression of Flowers and Fruits is of a painting suffused throughout with a joyous atmosphere, as Li, with the heightened brightness and intensity of his colors, also handles his canvas to produce a sense of evenly diffused light and texture. This effect, which would have been very difficult to obtain without his years of experience, adds to the gracious elegance of the roses. In applying color, he eschews strong contrasts of dark and bright in favor of a soft, gently flowing effect. In the porcelain vase and the decorative fruits placed around the table, for example, rather than shadows in dark colors, he adds touches of indigo blue around their borders for contrast with the background, or creates shadow effects through the blue-green tones in the fruit. This shows the influence of his stay in Japan, where he studied the Impressionists and the way their Pleinairist school observed color, but also shows the artist applying color freely according to the dictates of his own sensibility. The composition places clusters of objects in twos and threes around the flowers and vase, setting off and encircling the main subject in the center.

Li Shih Chiao co-founded the Taiyang Art Society along with other seven artists, including Chen Chengpo, Liao Chi Chun and Yang Sanlang, to promote the development of native Taiwanese art, and in his own art, he dedicated himself to the modern art movement. As a creative artist he thus occupied a very important position in the history and development of art in Taiwan in the 20th century. Beyond his own lifelong efforts to study and advance his art, he also contributed to the development of artists of the younger generation. Li Shih Chiao's Flowers and Fruits , created at an important point during his later years, is a rare and outstanding work; it brings together in a single canvas the concentrated essence of his painting in a mature expression of his special feel for color and light.

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