YUN GEE (1906–1963)
YUN GEE (1906–1963)

Portrait of Dorr Bothwell

YUN GEE (1906–1963)
Portrait of Dorr Bothwell
dated '8/17/26' (lower left); signed 'Yun Gee', titled and dated 'Portrait of Dorr Bothwell 1926' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
30.2 x 23 cm. (11 3/4 x 9 in.)
Painted in 1926
Private Collection, Asia
Anon. Sale, Christie's Hong Kong, 24 May 2009, Lot 533
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Taipei, Taiwan, Lin & Keng Gallery, The Artworks of Sanyu and Yun Gee, August 2004.
Taipei, Taiwan, Lin & Keng Gallery, Experiences of Passage: The Paintings of Yun Gee and Li-lan, November-December 2008.

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Lot Essay

Throughout Yun Gee's artistic career, portraits and urban scenes are two important subjects in his work, as they are representative of his style and state of mind during certain periods. Portrait of Dorr Bothwell is a significant work as it not only captures his confidence as an emerging artist during his years in San Francisco, but it also depicts a precious friendship with a fellow artist in his life. Botanical Garden in Spring illuminates the artist's style in the 1940s that is marked by maturity and subtlety. After his diverse experiences in San Francisco, New York and Paris, Yun Gee returned to New York in 1939. Drawing on his insights of merging different arts trends, Yun Gee established his individual style called 'Diamondism' that is manifest in this painting, which stands out as an iconic work among his paintings of New York landscapes.

1926 was a key year in Yun Gee's developing artistic career. He held the first solo exhibition of his life with resounding success, which led to him making the acquaintance of the Prince and Princess Achille Murat, who would later sponsor him on a trip to Paris. Portrait of Dorr Bothwell, which was completed in the same year, is a portrait of Yun Gee's friend from his years at the California School of Fine Arts— the American painter Dorr Bothwell. The work demonstrates the fruits of Yun Gee's embrace of avant-garde art movements such as Cubism and Synchromism. Through the contrast between warm and cold colours and geometric patterns, the painting showcases a striking yet lyrical touch that instils a distinct rhythm into the composition. Bothwell and Yun Gee shared a deep friendship. In response to the portraits they painted for each other, Yun Gee created Double Self Portrait , which is a beautiful capture of a cross-cultural and life-long friendship. Portrait of Dorr Bothwell encapsulates the summation of an artistic style that had been gradually maturing, and reveals the hopes and aspirations in the artist's heart as he prepared for his journey to France.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Yun Gee lived in New York on two occasions, during which he created some of his masterpieces such as WHEELS: INDUSTRIAL NEW YORK. As his experiences of New York deepened over time, the artist's portrayal of the city also began to feature different facets of everyday life, and he was particularly drawn to the leisurely park scenery. Yun Gee's landscape paintings embody a unique interpretation in composition and use of colours. The proportion and perspective in the landscape evokes glimpses of the world as seen through a kaleidoscope or a crystal ball, creating a fantastical or even surreal atmosphere in the painting. In Botanical Garden in Spring , Yun Gee employed the 'level distance' perspective that features in traditional landscape painting. The trees in the foreground form a circular shape that directs the viewer's perspective to the greenhouse in the distance. The massive and sprawling tree on the left is depicted in a surrealist expression that brings a sense of vitality to the landscape. Meanwhile, Yun Gee rendered the warm sunlight in subtle touches using oil paints in malachite green, cerulean blue and light yellow, which was inspired by his immersion in Diamondism over the years. In this iconic work, the viewer can witness the artist's impeccable command space, colour and light, and atmosphere. The painting is a representation of Yun Gee's personal style which had reached astonishing refinement at this point in his artistic career.

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