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"Three Youths of the Taiwan Salon"
artistic autumn; bijutsu no aki; Taiten san shōnen; Chen Jin; Lin Yushan; Masaki Naohiko; Mizuno Rentarō; Gotō Fumio; imperial art world; teikoku bijutsukai
Kabayama Elementary School, location of the first Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition
Imperial Fine Arts Academy
Tokyo School of Fine Arts
Guo Xuehu made his artistic debut in the fall of 1927, when his work “Stream Through Pine Ravine” (Shōgaku hisen) got accepted to the first Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition. He was one of the only three Taiwanese-Chinese artists whose works got accepted to the tōyōga division. The other two artists, Chen Jin (1907-1998) and Lin Yushan (1907-2004), were one year older than Guo Xuehu, and had studied in Japan. Art critics named Chen Jin, Lin Yushan, and Guo Xuehu the “Three Youths of the Taiwan Salon” (Taiten san shōnen), gesturing to their very young age (for an artist with an exhibition record) and the scandalous fact that all senior and much more experienced Taiwanese-Chinese artists in the tōyōga category, including Cai Xuexi, had their works rejected. Taiwan nichinichi shinpō announced the names of all artists and work titles accepted to the exhibition, reproduced selected works, and published multiple reviews. As a self-taught artist, Guo Xuehu felt enormous pressure to prove himself the following year.
“Stream Through Pine Ravine” is not a painting of an actual landscape. It is an ideal literati landscape, which includes all the common tropes, such as pine trees, waterfall, mountains, rocks, forests, and fog. At the same time, these elements are arranged in a way that creates a sense of perspective. For example, we can see smaller pines in the upper part of the work and bigger pines in the lower part. Also, the use of lighter and darker ink in the depiction of the mountains subtly enhances the sense of depth (Lin 2008, 24).
At the opening ceremony of the first Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition, Gotō Fumio (1884-1980), the Vice-Governor General, spoke to the crowd of invited guests and expressed his hopes that the exhibition would flourish and contribute to the “imperial art world” (teikoku bijutsukai) (“Nankoku bijutsu no dendō o kizuku hatsu no Taiwan Bijutsu Tenrankai”). The organizers also read congratulatory telegrams from Japan’s Minister of Education and the former organizer of the Korea Fine Arts Exhibition (Chōsen bijutsu tenrankai) Mizuno Rentarō (1868-1949), the director of the Imperial Fine Arts Academy Fukuhara Ryōjirō (1868-1932), and the director of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts Masaki Naohiko (1862-1940) (Nihon bijutsu nenkan Shōwa 3-nen 1928, 41). Thus, the organizers mobilized their contacts to major bureaucrats in the metropole to position their efforts within the imperial framework of art patronage.
The Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition was run with the help of four Japanese artists residing on the island: Gōhara Kotō (1887-1965), Kinoshita Seigai (1887-1988), Ishikawa Kin’ichirō (1871-1945), and Shiotsuki Tōho (1886-1954). The majority of participating artists were Japanese settlers (For the statistics on participation, see: square book & new visions). Some Taiwanese-Chinese were also interested in participating in this exhibition.
By the time the first Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition opened in Taipei, Japanese residents of the island were familiar with the hustle and bustle of the “artistic autumn” (bijutsu no aki) in the metropole. Taiwan nichinichi shinpō had for years been regularly reporting on the salon in Tokyo and other art-related events. The power of the press helped shape the popular image of an artist as a successful exhibition participant and a public figure. Also, exhibition participation promised an opportunity for sales and elevating an artist's standing in the art market. Nearly two months in advance of the salon's first opening in Taipei, the newspaper began extensive reporting on the topic, with the hopes of attracting potential participants and garnering a wide interest. Some anti-colonialists also supported Taiwanese-Chinese artists' participation in the official exhibitions, in belief that it was important to foster Taiwan's cultural production and demonstrate the accomplishments of Taiwan's artists (Kuo 2000, 9).
media/guo xuehu 1928 scenery near yuanshan.jpg
Ishino Takashi; Shuppin kara nyusen made; hatsunyusen; shinjin; newcomer artist
Kabayama Elementary School, location of the first Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
By the early 1920s, major newspapers in Japan began highlighting in their reporting the so-called “newcomer” artists (shinjin) and those who had received their “first acceptance at the exhibition” (hatsu nyūsen). The press helped shape the popular image of an artist as a successful exhibition participant. Also, exhibition participation promised an opportunity for sales and elevating an artist's standing in the art market. As an acceptance of one's work at a major exhibition became a decisive moment in launching a career, some artists began to enter their works when still in art school.
With the acceptance of an oil painting by the Taiwanese-Chinese oil painter Chen Chengbo to the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts Exhibition in Tokyo in 1926 and the opening of the first Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition in Taipei in 1927, the young generation of artists in Taiwan also began to envision their careers through the lens of exhibitions.
Many young artists must have held their breath as they crowded outside of the museum to catch a peek at the list announcing the selected names and the titles of the admitted works. Within a few hours, the names of admitted artists were announced on the radio and published the next day in all major daily newspapers. Art career guidebook writer Ishino Takashi (1897-1967) described how these artists would hear with excitement their name on the radio, have journalists arrive at the door, and receive greetings from acquaintances exclaiming “Congratulations!” when randomly met on a train (Ishino 1934, 108).
More senior artists sympathized with the ambitions of the young artists, yet at the same time they viewed them as prone to the “exhibition intoxication” (tenrankai kaichūdokushō) and cautioned against it (Ishino 1942, 115). For example, painter Ishii Hakutei (1882-1958) encouraged aspiring artists to take art seriously and not to aim at only the benefits resulting from participation in exhibitions (see afterword to Ishino 1934, 143-145). Elsewhere, painter Arishima Ikuma noted that aspiring painters submitted their works to exhibitions after only two or three years of study and then became very disappointed and would stop painting when rejected (Arishima 1920, 44). With the art world organized around competitive exhibitions, senior artists acted as jurors and gatekeepers, and were eager to protect their exclusive status.
Soon, a small industry developed catering to aspiring artists. Art supply companies such as Ōsama shōkai began organizing correspondence courses and in-person instruction under the guidance of exhibition jurors (Kolodziej 2020, 173). They also provided a special delivery service for artists living outside of the metropolitan area and aiming to submit their works to a juried exhibition. By securing discreet transport and submission to juried art exhibitions, they advertised that they were able to protect the name of the artists in case their work was rejected (Yoshida 1918, 316; Ishino 1934, 99).
Little research exists on the artists’ use of such delivery services. Based on the exhibition catalogues, we can gauge that the number of artists living outside of the metropolitan area participating in the official salon in Tokyo grew only slowly in the prewar period. This research is made complicated by the fact that some artists moved to Tokyo temporarily and submitted their works under a Tokyo address, and so the number of participants from Tokyo is inflated. However, it is clear that art supply companies, which also targeted school children, were well positioned to early recognize this new demand and to step in and provide delivery and educational services extending well beyond Tokyo.