While touring Taiwan in December, 2016, I was fortunate to attend an exhibition of Lee Yuan-hai’s ink paintings at Taipei’s National Museum of History. I’d never been to this museum before and knew nothing of the painter, but learned about him quite by fortune or serendipity. Here’s how it happened.
My wife and I were in Taipei to attend our niece’s wedding. Wanting to give her a and her husband a gift of art and lasting permanence, I had chosen on of the few remaining serigraphs from my mother, who was a well respected artist in her own right. I brought it rolled up in a cardboard tube and intended to have it matted and framed upon arrival. That worked out quite well. The framing shop was about four blocks from our hotel and when we entered, we found it filled with framed art. We soon learned the owner was often called upon to frame works for exhibitions, and among the work in his shop were several large, beautiful paintings by Mr. Lee. When I say large I mean large: a few were 10-12 feet long and 3-4 feet tall. My wife and I were ooohing and ahhhing over them when the framer told us about the exhibit. When we arrived at the exhibition a few days later, we saw some of Lee’s paintings which we’d seen in the frame shop.
Lee Yuan-hai has painted for over 40 years. His work is in the Lingnan School tradition. “Lingnan originated in Guangdong and proposed to add Western ideas to traditional art of the literati and is characterized by the harmony and integration of the East and the West. The four masters of the Lingnan School are Guan Shan-yue, Li Xung-tsai, Chao Shao-an, and Yang Shang-shen. Lee Yuan-hai studied with Yang Shan-shen and mastered the essences of the art of the Lingnan School, which can be summed up as putting great emphasis on sketching, use of lines, and spirit of figures and entire composition.” As you can see in the photograph, Chinese ink painting is done with those beautiful brushes, which require so much control to attain the density and elegance of the strokes.
The National Museum of History is a lovely place [see the photo above], surrounded by a park filled with trees, foliage, ponds and walkways. It’s a busy place with its always-changing exhibitions – while we were there antique pottery collections, the paintings by Lee Yuan-hai, and a surprise: “Pixar: 30 Years of Animation.” Upon entering the vast marble foyer, we learned “seniors” are admitted for free. Another surprise was learning photography was permitted. It immediately dawned on me that I should share this exhibit with you, our Fictional Cafe members, so I got busy with my new iPhone 7S and its wonderful camera. Below you will see photos of Lee’s work, with titles just below.
By the way, the framer did a handsome job of framing my mother’s Southwest Indian serigraph. He had it ready in four days and charged about a third what I might have paid for it in the U.S. Best of all, my niece and her husband just loved it and immediately sent me a photo of it hanging in their new apartment.
Please click on the images to see an enlarged view.