Entering the era of the new China, painter Yee Bon delved anew into creating works in oil and began searching for style with a modern zeitgeist but also tinged with an eastern flavor. Yee once said, "I've often thought that if the Chinese are going to study Western oil painting, they should add to it something of their own ethnic character, and try harder to understand their own art." Yee Bon himself worked to gain such an understanding, taking up the calligraphy brush to paint in ink on Chinese Xuan paper-not to become a painter of traditional Chinese landscapes, but to begin the journey toward a more nativist approach in which traditional techniques would be mirrored in the medium of oil. Yee became an acknowledged master of the landscape, a genre which would engage him continuously throughout his career. To his landscapes he brought the same earnestness as he did to life in general, reflecting on subject, composition, and color as deeply as if they were still lifes or human subjects, so that his works in that genre fully reveal his distinct personal style and aesthetic predilections.
Yee Bon has achieved considerable attainments in landscape paintings. He has never stopped his repetitive depiction of the same subject in different times. In this auction, we are very honored to have collected his works from the 1940's to the 60s, with which a deeper understanding of the artist's different periods of style will be attained. Created in 1949, (Landscape)Hong Kong (Lot 932) breaks away from the classical naturalistic approach and instead uses different color patches to let us feel the light reflected on the horizon. Unlike the magnificent gorgeousness of light and shadow as depicted in Western Impressionism, Yee's work uses simple colors echoing the simplicity and modesty of Chinese countryside Yee Ben traveled throughout the greater part of China in 1950s, painting nearly a hundred landscapes in the oil medium, each reflecting his love for its varied terrain. Bamboo Grove (Lot 926) thoroughly exhibits the artist's refinement and steady style. The brushwork is delicate yet not trivial; the overlapped bold colors not only create view of depth and sense of layers but also enable viewers to feel the concreteness and realism of the scene. Since Yee grew up in countryside since childhood, he has profound sentiments and strong affections for the working class. Hence, though the figures in Bamboo Grove appear to be negligible within the boundary of nature, they represent the diligence and frugality of peasants and their belief in triumph over nature. Besides grasping the beauty of nature from the painting, we can also find the prevailing customs of the society of the time, and feel the serenity in Millet's style of Realism.
Contrary to Yee's typical landscape paintings, Swimming Fishes (Lot 927) created in 1947 is a very special work of art, no matter in the selection of view or formal depiction. The artist makes use of yellowish green and light blue meticulous brushstrokes to portrait the flowing water. The fishes' two glimpses of faint reflection of light on the side contrast with the tranquil aurora. Yee intentionally reduces the luminosity of color to bring out the breadth and depth of space. The form of the reddish brown river banks rocks enhances the vertical format of the painting, and the two fishes are on the left and right guiding viewers to follow the verticality, which combine to compose a scene resembling a viewer bending down to see from below the fishes swimming towards him. This reminds one of a classic argument from "Autumn Floods of Zhuangzi: "You're not a fish. How do you know its pleasure?" Yee's depiction of the working class in Music of human sorrow created in the 1930s has amazed the art scene. Viewing from the ease and self-contentment of Swimming Fishes, the viewers may catch a glimpse of the artist's lifelong experiences and the changed state of mind.