Wednesday, June 16, 2010

(Social) Realism: Taiwan

Chen Cheng-po (1895 – 1947)

Chen Cheng-po (Chinese: 陳澄波, February 2, 1895 – March 25, 1947), was a well known Taiwanese painter. In 1926, his oil painting Street of Chiayi was featured in the seventh Empire Art Exhibition in Japan, which was the first time a Taiwanese artist's work could be displayed at the exhibition. Chen devoted his life to education and creation, and was greatly concerned about the development of humanist culture in Taiwan. He was not only devoted to the improvement of his own painting, but also to the promotion of the aesthetic education of the Taiwanese people. He was murdered as a result of the 228 Incident, a 1947 popular uprising in Taiwan which was brutally repressed by the Kuomintang (KMT).

Li Mei-shu (1902 - 1983)

Born in 1902 in Sanhsia, Taiwan, Li Mei-shu had developed an affection for drawing since early childhood. In pursuit of his dream of becoming a painter, Li left for Japan in 1928. In the March of 1929 he was admitted to the Tokyo School of Fine Arts where he concentrated on the study of such different schools as Classicism, Romanticism and Realism.

Shortly after his graduation from the art school in 1934, Li returned to his hometown, Sanhsia, to which he had a profound commitment. As a painter, Li used his paintbrushes to fulfill this commitment, manifesting his love of the people and nature on many a canvas. In the meantime, he was also active in promoting fine arts in Taiwan. As a result, Li, together with his fellow painters, founded the Taiyang Fine Arts Association, the first ever in Taiwan.

In addition, Li was appointed to a professorship of fine arts at Chinese Culture University as well as National College of Arts. He also held a chair at National Taiwan Normal University in 1975. Gifted and versatile artist as he was, Li received his first lesson in realism at the art school in Japan. And realism remained the principle he lived by as an artist for the rest of his life even though there were times when fauvism or abstractionism was the mainstream. Somehow realism was the only way which, as Li himself described, "could best serve my faith in depicting the true beauty of rural life in Taiwan." Persistent and determined as he was, Li Mei-shu has been thus regarded as the "Great Wall" in the art history of Taiwan.

World (Social) Realist Art (Index of Countries)
This blog page is part of an ongoing project by artist and part-time lecturer Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin ( to explore Realist / Social Realist art from around the world. The term Realism is used in its broadest sense to include 19th century Realism and Naturalism as well as 20th century Impressionism (which after all was following in the path of Courbet and Millet). Social Realism covers art that seeks to examine the living and working conditions of ordinary people (examples include German Expressionism, American Ashcan School and the Mexican Muralists).

Click here for (Social) Realist Art Definitions, World (Social) Realism and Global Solidarity, Art and Politics, Social Realism in history and Country Index.

Suggestions for appropriate artists from around the world welcome to

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