Chen Chengbo was born on February 2, 1895, in Chiayi, Taiwan. He began his study of art at the Teaching Department of the Taipei Japanese School in 1913 and upon graduation in 1917, returned to Chiayi to teach primary school. In 1923, he went to Japan for advanced studies at the Normal Education Division of Tokyo Fine Arts School where he became the first Taiwanese artist whose work was accepted into the Imperial College of Fine Arts collection, prompting the Japanese government to sponsor his continuing education in France. In 1929, Chen Chengbo moved to Shanghai and started what would become a series of teaching positions in fine arts schools throughout China. In honor of his recognition as a modernist oil painter, in April, 1929, he was invited to be one of the judges for the very First National Art Exhibition that included a large number of works in what was described as “the Western style.” In 1933, he returned with his family to his hometown of Chiayi. He co-founded the Taiyang Fine Arts Association and was elected as a member of the city council. In 1947, during the “228 Incident” that pitted locals against the Chinese Nationalist Party, Chen Chengbo was executed in public by the Kuomintang military for being a representative of the citizens for peace committee. In 1979, the first retrospective of Chen Chengbo’s paintings was shown in Taipei and two memorial exhibitions were circulated in China between 1992 and 1994.
Suzhou Bridge, 1933
Oil on Canvas
15" x 18" (38.1cm x 45.7cm)
About this work
It wasn’t until the early 20th century that Chinese painters began to go abroad to study Western techniques and styles of painting. Chen Chengbo was a part of the important first generation of Chinese oil painters who returned to their country to teach these new-found techniques in the art schools. Chen Chengbo had discovered the joys of plein air painting in the countryside through exposure to the works of the French Impressionists, and “Suzhou Bridge,” probably produced while on a study trip with his students, is one of the best examples of his urban landscapes. It would be easy to get lost in the inviting colors and intricate linear composition of this scene of the beautiful and tranquil small town of Suzhou, but the viewer is ultimately reminded of encroaching Western technology and industry by the telephone poles in the foreground and factory smoke stacks in the far distance.