Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

"Three Youths of the Taiwan Salon"

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).

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