Double Self Portrait

Double Self Portrait
signed in Chinese ; signed and dated ‘Yun 12/8/26’ (lower left) Dorr BOTHWELL (middle right) inscribed in Chinese; inscribed ‘Self-Portrait $40.00’ (on the reverse)
oil on paperboard
28.5 x 42 cm. (11 ¼ x 16 ½ in.)
Painted in 1926
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Morris Fish in the 1930s
Given as a wedding gift to the niece of Mr. and Mrs. Morris Fish, 1960s
Private Collection, France
Anon. Sale, Christie’s Hong Kong, 29 November 2015, lot 414
Aacquired at the above sale by the present owner
Private Collection, Asia

Brought to you by

Kimmy Lau
Kimmy Lau

Lot Essay

‘[The Chinese artist] must form his art into an aesthetic, spirit unity so that nothing interrupts the rhythm and inspiration of that truth. Throughout scientific improvement [the Chinese artist] will absorb Western influence, but [his] ethnic character will remain forever.’
- Yun Gee, The Chinese Artist and the World of Tomorrow, 1926

Throughout Yun Gee’s artistic career, self-portraits can be seen as a crucial summary of his artistic style and inner world. Double Self-Portrait represents a diverging point where he transitioned from San Francisco to Paris. During Yun Gee’s early residence at San Francisco in the United States in the 1920s, he started to access and explores western artistic style and technique. The traditional Chinese painting and culture he learnt before collided and blended with bold and experimental artistic genres originated from the United States in Yun Gee’s mind to gradually form a style incorporating unique ethnical characters and humanistic implications. Double Self-Portrait was painted during this important period of time while the rudiment of his artistic style to be formed. They are great manifestations of the artist’s passionate talent and pursuit as well as fluctuations of his youth time.

1926 was a key year in Yun Gee's developing artistic career. He and 10 other artists, including Oldfield, founded the Modern Gallery in San Francisco, where he held the first solo show of his life and established a Revolutionary School of Chinese Art for his younger compatriots. At the same year he also made the acquaintance of the Prince and Princess Achille Murat, who the following year would sponsor him on a trip to the world's artistic capitol of Paris for further study. Double Self Portrait from 1926 shows Yun Gee, as a Chinese artist, in a self-reflective state of mind, providing a summation of the artistic style that had been gradually maturing, and provides valuable revelations of the hopes and aspirations in the artist's heart as he prepared for his journey to France.

As a Chinese-American painter, each of his self-portraits bore the mark of the conscious self-awareness brought out in him as he journeyed through different Western cultures. Those portraits reflected both his stylistic development and his personal shifts in outlook during the different periods in which he painted them. For Yun Gee, self-portraits are avenues for the release of feeling and expressing his train of thought. The image on the left is set out in geometrical blocks of beautiful and highly saturated colours of carmine, saffron yellow, jade green, and cobalt blue, with facial contours that highlight the Cubist emphasis on structure. The two faces overlapped and collided with each other to present an image of an ambitious young Chinese artist and reveal his confidence and hesitation as well as an introspection of observing his own ethnical character while exploring original artistic style in the west.

Double Self Portrait also marks the life-long friendship between Yun Gee and Dorr Bothwell. Also In 1926, Bothwell painted a portrait for Yun Gee. She drew a painting by Yun Gee in the background as a work within a work. In the current work, Yun Gee responds to Bothwell’s portrait by including her work into the his self-portrait, which can be inferred from the signature on the right “Dorr Bothwell”. The friendship thus beautifully represented in the painting.

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