Lot 1009
  • 1009

Liao Chi-Chun (Liao Jichun)

5,500,000 - 7,500,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Liao Chi-Chun (Liao Jichun)
  • Tamkang Scenery
  • signed in Pinyin and Chinese
  • oil on canvas
  • 60.6 by 72.3 cm.;   23 7/8  by 28 1/2  in.
executed in 1971


Private Asian Collection


Liao Chi-Chun Paintings, Cathay Gallery, Taipei, 1981, p. 115
Taiwan Fine Arts Series 4 – Liao Chi-Chun, Artist Publishing Co., Taipei, 1992, p. 135

Catalogue Note

Magnificent and pure scenery

Liao Chi-Chun's prime classic Tamkang Scenery

The Chinese artist travelled to Japan under the background of the First Sino-Japanese War and the Hundred Days Reform in the late 19th Century. He aimed to learn from the successful experience of the Meiji Restoration and explore how traditional culture can become modernized. In 1905, Li Shutong (also known as Master Hong Yi) was admitted to the Tokyo School of Arts. At that time Western oil painting was beginning to be introduced into Japan. His peers included Gao Jianfu, Chen Shuren and Gao Qifeng, masters of the “Lingnan School.” During the 1910s and 20s, many Chinese including Guan Liang and Ding Yanyong went to Japan from the Chinese mainland and many other artists moved to Japan from Taiwan. Chen Cheng-Po and Liao Chi-Chun was representative of the artists who brought modern art to Taiwan. Due to the early death of Chen Cheng-Po, Liao Chi-Chun became a great master who was active on Taiwan's artistic stage and enjoyed a great reputation following the “Restoration of Taiwan”. Tamkang Scenery (Lot 1009)is the largest work among a series which had been repeatedly refined over a period of 20 years. It not only reveals the length and breadth of the space with its well-organized composition, but it also carries the artist’s love for his hometown. It can be regarded as the finishing touch to the series and a classic by Liao Chi-Chun during his prime.

Landscape scenery cherished for 20 years

Liao Chi-Chun was born in Taiwan during the Japanese occupation. Thanks to his hard work, he graduated from the Tokyo School of Arts in 1927 with an excellent academic performance. The next year, his painting Banana Grove Courtyard was selected for the Empire Exhibition, which was the highest standard at that time. He then returned to Taiwan to promote the development of modern art. Influenced by Japanese academism, Liao’s paintings were based on Impressionism and Fauvism. The composition of his paintings reflected Cubism and absorbed the vitality of colour in folk art. In 1962, at the invitation of United States Department of State, Liao Chi-Chun visited the US and Europe. He saw great works of Western art and experienced the free creativity in the West. Therefore, his style later became bolder. Tamkang Scenery was completed in 1971. It marked the most mature period in his work. Liao returned to his hometown after travelling and studying in Japan, the U.S., and Europe, becoming more confident in the colour and composition of his paintings. Tanshui Town is located in northwest Taipei, to the north of the mouth of the Tanshui River. It had been a Dutch commercial port since the 16th century. As an old town, Tanshui is also famous for its beautiful natural scenery and became the best subject for Taiwanese painters. Chen Cheng-Po and Shiy De-Jinn all painted at Tanshui and Liao Chi-Chun even went there many times to paint. Production of this series of paintings started in 1956 and ended in 1975, before his death. He produced at least six paintings with similar compositions during those 20 years and went over the details again and again, just like Cézanne did when painting La Montagne Saint-Victoire. This helps us to gain a greater understanding of his train of thought.

Simplified composition exploiting distance

The composition of Tamkang Scenery features bilateral and longitudinal symmetry. It takes the Peak of Guanyin Mountain as the focus of the long-range perspective while the foreground shows the vast plain. The Tanshui River serves as a boundary, dividing the painting into two parts. To prevent the painting from looking dull due to regular composition, Liao deliberately added a motorway around the plain. It starts from the bottom left and zigzags as it climbs slowly up to the right on the canvas. The addition not only creates a sense of motion, but also echoes the banks of the Tanshui River in the upper part of the painting. If the painting is viewed as part of the whole series, you can easily see that it is size 20; therefore there was more room than with the size 8 to 12 paintings. Liao also deliberately took advantage of the broader perspective to present the Tamkang scenery from a distance. Therefore, in this piece of work, Liao removed the tall tree in the foreground to reduce the sense of distance from his 1956 work, Guanyin Mountain.  Instead of highlighting the density of the houses in the foreground, as in other paintings and in order to highlight the broadness of the scenery, Liao used an ingenious composition. The woods on the bottom left, the road at the bottom centre and the hill on the bottom right form a cup-shaped undulating line. It covers part of the plain so that the shape of the plain looks likes the reflection of Guanyin Mountain. There is therefore longitudinal symmetry. The eyes of observers are focused at the center of the painting and the sense of distance is strengthened. Looking at the painting for a while, observers will naturally stroll through the vast world created by the artist. It is just like the wonderful landscapes in traditional Chinese paintings where you can go on a sightseeing journey, settle down, and write poetry, making you think of utopia.

Choose colours using the heart: Landscape painting in oil

During his later years, Liao Chi-Chun was renowned for his bold use of colour. For example, in the same series of paintings as Tamkang Scenery , he applied a lot of light colours such as egg yolk yellow and pink. In terms of the brightness and saturation of the colours, Tamkang Scenery is the best work in the series, and the only painting that is mainly in blue and green. Liao Chi-Chun was famous for making the best use of colour. He learnt the use of primary colours from Fauvism; however he also absorbed the essence of Chinese art. Therefore, the strong colours in his works were often determined by his sense of subjectivity, reflecting his mood and creativity at that time. To highlight the natural beauty of the clear sky and green grass, Liao used blue and green as the main tones in the painting and added variations. In modern psychology, sky blue symbolizes hope, dark blue symbolizes integrity and trust while green suggests peace and a sense of security. It is clear that Liao was enchanted by the scenery he saw, he had got rid of all his restraints and presented him to nature: Guanyin Mountain in the distance was painted in ultramarine, and looks like blue and white porcelain. The sky and the river were painted in a fresh and saturated sky blue. The grassland at the bottom were painted in a brighter dark green to attract the viewer's attention, while the woods and grassland on the left and right are cobalt green to serve as the background. Liao also added scattered dots on the mountains, greenland and the bottom left to inject vitality into the painting and make it brighter. The colours in the painting echo traditional blue-green Chinese landscapes, creating a relaxed and free-wandering space.

Just one year after Liao Chi-Chun completed Tamkang Scenery, Wu Guanzhong painted The Qianling Mountains(Lot 1008). Comparing the theme and composition of these two works from the same period, we can easily see the difference between the two great masters' use of colours: Wu Guanzhong places more emphasis on the texture created by layering paint, while Liao focuses on the feeling and youthful fun of pure color, creating a very different artistic appeal.