(Chinese, 1908-1995)
signed in Chinese, dated '1982' (lower right); titled in Chinese, dated '1982' (on the stretcher bars)
oil on canvas
117 x 91 cm. (46 x 35 7/8 in.)
Painted in 1982
Private Collection, Asia
Taipei Fine Arts Museum, The Painting World of Li Shih Chiao, Taipei, Taiwan, 1988 (illustrated, p. 148).
Artist publishing Co., Taiwan Fine Arts Series 8: Li Shih-Chiao, Taipei, Taiwan, 1993 (B/W illustrated, p. 254)
Li Shih Chiao Art Museum, Li Shih Chao Vol. 1, Taipei, Taiwan, 1996 (illustrarted, p. 304).
Tzuen Tsae International Art Co., Ltd., The precursory artists' masterpieces of Taiwan (II), Taipei, Taiwan, 1999 (illustrated, p.5, 67)

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Lot Essay

Li Shih Chiao is hailed as one of the pioneers in Taiwan western painting. In his early years, he learned from the renowned Kinichiro Ishikawa and later studied at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts. After being inspired by Western Modernism, he chartered an artistic path that is unique in many ways. Li's painting style is versatile - from early abstract paintings to realism paintings in later years, he would rediscover the essence of oil paintings. Playing with structure and colours, he builds on his solid foundation, infusing novel ideas and emotions onto the canvas.
In this piece Bath (Lot 55), Li uses a realistic approach to portray the beauty of the female body, allowing viewers to feel the natural exquisiteness and warmth that radiates from it, conveyed through his mastery in sketching skills. This type of skill is also found in the works of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, depicting the beauty and fullness of the body. In Renoir's The Large Bathers, soft colours create the visual texture of the women's gentle skin; the green leaves and blue waters represent a contrast with the soft colours, giving an impression that the women's skin reflected by the natural light is subtle and delicate. However, Li further exploits contrasting colour techniques through the red carpet, the green cabinet and blue bathrobes - using these primary colours to accentuate the pure beauty of the women's skin. Interestingly, these bathing nudes by the Eastern and Western masters clearly show the difference in the artistic views of the body in their respective cultures. Renoir focuses on portraying seemingly flawless and silky texture of the nudes' skin in their natural poses, with the casual conversation between the nudes to produce an onlooker effect as though the artist is not involved in their conversation. In contrast, Li deliberately selects high saturation of pure colours to make the painting rich and vibrant. The nudes' poses are not exaggerated, with some standing and some sitting down, intentionally creating the effect that the artist is involved in the composition process. Li emphasizes the meticulous use of well-toned colours in his paintings to highlight the nudes, analogous to impressionist artist Paul Gauguin who also uses bright colours in his painting backgrounds; however, Li's models are richer in size and volume compared with Gauguin's flat wash approach.
Li has always paid attention to detailed on human sketches, especially in the facial features and limbs. In his 1975 creation Three Beauties, it illustrates his mastery in drawing the human body. But when compared to the realism in Bath, Li elongates the nudes' bodies to add an abstract touch to the, some would say, conceptual painting. In his 1982 painting Bath, a return to realism painting, classical equilateral triangle in the composition gives viewers a calmer and stable impression. The models form a triangular display in contrast with the round mirror in the backdrop; the striped towels resonant with the striped wall, and the checkered floor tiles against the dotted bathrobes. The skillful manipulation of these patterns produces multiple visual layers.
Li spent his lifetime creating masterpieces, dedicating himself to personal growth. He said: "Painting is a never ending competition, because when you solve one issue, another surfaces. Besides the selection of colours, light, your emotional response to the structure and composition and so on, you need to ponder on how to solve these problems every day." With a brain that never stops thinking and a mind that never stops learning, Li feels the purpose of painting is not in creating a photo-perfect picture, but in diving into more profound contents and ideas. This continuation in the search for the essence in painting and self-positioning, ultimately strike an ideal harmony between colours and space.

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