Chen Cheng-po (1895-1947)
The first generation Western style painter in Taiwan Chen Cheng-po is one of the most iconic figures in Taiwanese art history. He was the first Taiwanese artist, whose works were selected into the Imperial Art Exhibition. His participation and persistence for art are as significant as his promotion of and contribution to Taiwan Modern Art Movement.
Chen Cheng-po was born in 1895, the same year as the cession of Taiwan. His father Chen Shou-Yu was a Sinology scholar during the late Qing dynasty. Although in his childhood he was mainly taken care by his grandmother, he still was able to gain the basis of Sinology and scholarly traits from his father. Later on these characteristics played a very important role in his artistic life. After graduating from the Teaching Department of the Taipei Japanese School in 1917, he taught in Chiayi Public School and took up counseling work. In 1924, after six years of compulsory education finished, he went to Japan and enrolled in the Education Department of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts.
Chen Cheng-po graduated from the Graduate Department of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts in 1929. With a recommendation by the Japanese Ministry of Education and Chinese painter working in Japan Wang Ji-Yuan, he was appointed Western painting professor and head of Western Painting Department of Shanghai’s Xinhua Art University, Chang Ming Art School, and Yi-Yuan Painting Research Institute. Moreover, he was also appointed as Special Reviewer for Japanese Art and Craft. Chen was nominated as one of twelve representatives of the Republic of China for the World Expo in Chicago and displayed his painting Qing Liu. During that time, his works continued to be selected for the Imperial Art Exhibition and the Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition. In the later exhibition, in 1932, he was qualified to exhibit his works with no examination. During the Shanghai period, both Chen’s teaching and learning, also his strive for creating resulted in a substantial amount of masterpieces and presented a specific modern thinking. At the same time, he also actively participated in the preparatory meetings of art societies, such as the Storm Art Society. His vivacity and radiance was useful for keeping a profound friendship with traditional Chinese painters and art societies.
When living in Shanghai, Chen Cheng-po was teaching, studying and continued to create, thus leaving many great masterpieces emphasizing his special modernist thinking. At the same time, he was also actively involved in artistic activities, such as preparatory meetings of the Storm Art Society. His liveliness, warmth and generosity helped him to keep close friendship with both traditional Chinese painters and “new school” artists.
In 1933, during the 128 Incident (also known as Shanghai War) Chen Cheng-po returned to Taiwan. Chen devoted himself to the development of Taiwanese art, formed the Tai-Yang Art Association, every year held annual and island-touring exhibitions. Besides, he enhanced and promoted the popularization of art works, thus having a profound influence on Taiwanese culture and arts during the 1930s and ‘40s. During this time, Chen reached the peak of creation, used rich and lively colors to depict Taiwan’s lush forests and landscapes, and genial people.
2014 is the 120th anniversary of Chen Cheng-po’s birth. A series of large-scale touring exhibitions have been held in Tainan, Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo, a final exhibition is staged in the National Palace Museum in Taipei. The name of the exhibition is called “Hidden Talent" to highlight how a highly gifted artist who was deeply influenced by the concepts of traditional Chinese ink-wash paintings contributed towards “integrating Chinese and Western art" by assimilating characteristic features of oriental paintings into his works.