Lot 1031
  • 1031

Chen Cheng-Po (Chen Chengbo)

10,000,000 - 15,000,000 HKD
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  • Chen Cheng-Po (Chen Chengbo)
  • West Lake
  • signed in Chinese and dated 1928
  • oil on canvas


Artist's Family
Important Private Asian Collection


Hangzhou, Chen Cheng-Po, West Lake, 1928
Chiayi, Chiayi Municipal Cultural Center, Chen Cheng-Po, Chiayi: Chen Cheng-Po Centennial Memorial Exhibition, 1994, p. 29 
Taipei, Liang Gallery, Chen Cheng-Po: Art Treasures Collection IV, 2005, p. 45
Taipei, Liang Gallery, Dazzling Through A History: Chen Cheng-Po & Liao Chi-Chun Dual Exhibition, 4 - 26 December 2010, p. 7,63
Taipei, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Journey through Jiangnan: A Pivotal Moment in Chen Cheng-Po's Artistic Quest, 12 February - 13 May 2012, p. 77
Taipei, Liang Gallery, Chen Cheng-Po: The Origin of Taiwan Art, 12 May - 8 July 2012
Tainan, Xinying Cultural Center, Tainan Municipal Cultural Center, Koxinga Museum & National Museum of Taiwan Literature, Surging Waves: Chen Cheng-Po's 120th Birthday Anniversary Touring Exhibition, 18 January - 30 March 2014, p. 260 


Chen Cheng-Po, Taiwan Fine Art Series 1, Artists Publishing Co. Ltd., Taipei, 1992, p.68, 211
Oil·Passion·Chen Cheng-Po, Lion Art Publishing, Taipei, 1998, p. 61
I am the Embodiment of Colours: Chen Cheng-Po (Original Musical), Chiayi City Government, Chiayi, 2012, p. 137
The 'Something' that Represents the Era: Study of Paintings of Chen Cheng-Po, Artco Books, Taipei, 2012, p. 129
Hidden Talent, Chen Cheng-Po Cultural Foundation, Chiayi, 2014, p. 102
Misty Vapor on the High Seas, Collected Artworks of Chen Cheng-Po, Shanghai People's Fine Arts Publishing House, p.16 


This work is overall in good condition. The canvas is relined and the overall surface is varnished. There are slight craquelures across the upper half surface. There is no sign of retouching under UV examination.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Melodious Clarity, Glittering Ripples

Presenting West Lake, Chen Cheng-Po’s Museum-Quality Masterpiece


In the history of Chinese modern art, Chen Cheng-Po has occupied a status of unique importance. Born and raised in Japanese-era Taiwan, the artist went abroad to study Western painting in Japan, during which period his works were recognized and chosen for display at the Imperial Art Exhibition. After completing his studies, Chen Cheng-Po traveled to Shanghai, serving as an instructor at various institutions and actively participating in the modern art circle. After the eruption of the Sino-Japanese war, the artist returned to Taiwan, creating his own artistic community and working ceaselessly at his craft. He is one of the crucial figures in the development of Taiwanese modern art, a high priest among artists…The creations and activity during his Shanghai period were of great supplement to the history of Shanghai’s modern art.

The China Art Museum, Curator Shi Dawei


These were the words spoken by Shi Dawei, curator of Shanghai’s China Art Museum, during the museum’s magnificent Chen Cheng-Po retrospective exhibition in 2014. These simple words pinpoint Chen Cheng-Po’s position in contemporary Chinese art, the title “high priest among artists” no over-statement. The connection between Chen Cheng-Po and the Chinese art world is a profound one, and can be traced as far back as the 20th century.


China: Brilliant and Stunning


Shanghai in the early 1920s was brimming with manifold artistic currents and pursuits. In contrast with the culture at the Beijing Central Academy of Fine Arts, defined by President Xu Beihong’s advocating of Western realism to transform Chinese painting, the artistic milieu in Shanghai was one of expansiveness and freedom. The city was led by drumbeat of the Xinhua Academy of Fine Arts, which at the time was widely recruiting talent, and eschewed the belief that painting ought be in singular pursuit of a “skin-deep realism,” supported by the Western studies of perspective and anatomy. Rather it promoted an art that was driven by a unique personal perspective, imbued with daring vitality and national character. The school was after something new and pure, and found itself moving in the vein of the Art Nouveau movement. At the time, the school had recruited many outstanding artists to teach at the college. In 1929, in addition to Chen Baoyi and Wang Yachen, the school invited Chen Cheng-Po, who had then already been honored with two awards by the Imperial Art Academy while a student in Japan, to take the position as Chariman of the Western Art department. Chen Cheng-Po accepted the job, bringing to the students novel concepts and artistic inspiration. In the five years that Chen Cheng-Po stayed in Shanghai, his devotion to teaching aside, he was also highly active in the art circles. He was involved in Pang Xunqin’s planning of the Juelanshe, the Storm Society, and through the Yiyuan Painting Institute, he regularly hosted art exchange exhibitions. He also served on the Review Committee of the World Expo in Chicago, his contributions undeniable in the development of modern Chinese art.


Yet, Chen Cheng-Po’s relationship with modern Chinese art traces back to a date even earlier than when he the 1929 arrival in Shanghai. In the year before, Chen Cheng-Po, who was then still studying at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, took a trip to Hangzhou’s West Lake and Shanghai. It was during that visit that the artist first experienced the singular magnificence of China’s landscapes, and fueled by bold ambition, he made his natural surroundings his studio and completed a series of paintings. A local friend hosted for him the Chen Cheng-Po West Lake Commemorative Exhibition, as a way of honoring the visit of the remarkably talented young artist. This is the story behind West Lake, the lot currently on offer. That exhibit was the first occasion of the work’s public unveiling, an event that garnered much attention from the art circles of Hangzhou and Shanghai. Foreshadowing the artist’s later teaching post in Shanghai, and as the first interaction between the artist and the Chinese art world, the importance and unique historical significance of West Lake cannot be overstated.


Confident and Free: The Majestic World, the Warm Breath of Spring


Since I was very young ,I had dreams of doing something big. Only that feeling could truly bring me warmth and contentment.

Chen Cheng-Po


Chen Cheng-Po was born into a family of humble means. His mother passed away while he was still young and his grandmother took over the task of raising him. Refraining from self-pity, Chen Cheng-Po welcomed art as his spiritual refuge. His private hope was always to do something big, to become an important artist. Carried by the sails of this belief, in 1924, the artist, overcoming economic and other external obstacles, left Taiwan to study abroad Japan at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. As his classmate in Tokyo Liao Jichun recalled, when Chen Cheng-Po first arrived on campus, his frame small, his appearance disheveled, many of the other students had looked down upon him. But Chen Cheng-Po devoted all of his energy, tirelessly, into creating art, never shy about asking for mentorship. In 1926, when his painting Streets of Chiayi was accepted into the Teiten, the Imperial Art Exhibition, his classmates’ attitudes transformed dramatically. From then on, he was referred to as “Mister.” That was the first solid sign of validation in Chen Cheng-Po’s artistic career.


In 1928, the year of the creation of West Lake, the artist had already graduated from the undergraduate program at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, and with exceptional grades, he was accepted into the school’s art graduate program for an additional year. The timing worked out such that he was able to visit China. During this trip, he specially chose a large-scale horizontal canvas (80x160cm) to depict the beauty of the West Lake. The painting is one of the artist’s few large-scale creations. Based on the current count gathered from the artist’s catalogues, there are only two paintings other than West Lake at this size or larger. One of the others, Streets of Chiayi, belongs to the collection at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts. The second, Coconut Trees, belongs to the artist’s family. West Lake vividly demonstrates both magnanimity and strength, as well as the artist’s enthrallment with China’s landscape, and his determination to capture its stunning allure.


Although the materials we use are foreign, imported, the subjects and styles of our painting must be Eastern.

Chen Cheng-Po


Upon this horizontal canvas, Chen Cheng-Po depicts the West Lake through his eyes. The verdant mountain ranges in rhythmic dynamism surround the azure lake. The small boats upon the surface of the water appear as musical notes on a score, their varying heights like the lilt and flow of a melody. The red-tiled roofs at the foot of the mountain are brought into greater relief by the surrounding colors of blue and green. The colors have been applied to the canvas with astonishing richness. Take the lake, for example – varying shades of blue, white, and yellow are layered and interleaved upon the canvas with expansive ease, communicating the water’s depth and its rising ripples. And in the dashes and rotations of the brush, the trees in the background appear to be putting their gorgeous figures on display.  In depicting the boats and human subjects, the artist uses a minimalist approach to portray their positions and movement, seemingly invoking Han Chinese master Bada Shanren’s technique of capturing the essence of a subject through deceptively simple depiction, the spirit dynamic and vivid. Chen Cheng-Po once said, “While painting, the most important thing is to thoroughly understand one’s subject. Control of the composition is secondary. When it comes to composition, strict obedience of the standard rules of scale will only stiffen the painting. One ought instead to approach it with a casual attitude, allowing the brush freedom…to approach it rationally, illustratively will drain its charm and vitality. Even if the painting is good, it will lack the heroic strength that is required to stun the heart of the viewer. To wield the brush with authentic feeling will create something better.” West Lake was created in this very spirit of sincere simplicity and freedom in brushwork and attitude. All of the excitement and joy upon the artist’s first visit to China, his initial recognition of the beauty of the local scenery, is fully displayed upon the canvas.


"Rippling light rays under a clear sky, the mountains under mist and hazy rains.

The West Lake rivaling the Beauty of the West, whether in plain or exquisite dress."

Song Dynasty, Su Shi


The beauty of the West Lake has inspired not only poets, but also artist Chen Cheng-Po, who returned again after his first painting of the West Lake. It became one of his enduring subjects, West Lake being the first in his series of depictions of the lake, as well as the largest. His passion toward the lake and the grand aspirations swelling in his heart are condensed onto the painting’s canvas. This is a work of particular significance in the artist’s oeuvre. The renowned composer Yao Qian once said, “Chen Cheng-Po’s paintings are of such sincerity and strength. They are accents from the artist’s own life, a condensation of his feelings, transmuted into an inextinguishable light…His works constantly remind us that while our lives may be limited, in the flow of time, it is only with brave and honest expression that we can leave behind these indelible traces of our time.” Through West Lake, we hear the past, as well as the future, the painting moving us, ceaselessly.