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Taiwan in the Eyes of a Western Traveler--John Thomson’s Footprints in Formosa
John Thomson(1837-1921)is regarded as a pioneering photographer in the 19th century. He traveled to Far East, documenting the portraits, landscapes and eastern cultures profoundly through his lens and these photographs have become precious historical records. Although John Thomson only stayed in Taiwan for a few days, the images and notes he left are valuable historical materials for the research into Taiwan in the 1870s.His story could be comparable to Shen Bao-zhen, one of the figures in 「Traveling in Time」Exhibition. They were the travelers who came to Taiwan in the same time period. Through their stories, we can learn how they interpret Formosa in the 19th century.
II. Selected Japanese Painting Societies: the Chun Meng Painting Society and the Sendan Group

The so-called Toyoga refers to the modern Japanese paintings that were imported into Taiwan during Japanese colonial rule. Its origins lay with the Japanese Painting Division of the Ministry of Education Art Exhibition (Bunten) from 1907. Along the lines of the Chosun Art Exhibition from some years prior, the Taiten was set up in 1927, with the Japanese Painting Division and the Western Painting Division juxtaposed as the two officially sanctioned exhibitions. An examination of the works on display in the Taiten reveals that works that imitated traditional ink-and-water paintings were excluded almost from the outset and the Toyoga, with a focus on elegant and delicate sketches, predominated. Contemporary Japanese and Taiwanese painters active in Taiwan were known for constant innovation and refashioning own style, putting on a lively and diverse presence in official art exhibitions. Established around 1930, the Chun Meng (Spring Bud) Painting Society and the Sendan Group as research institutions were arguably the products of such a push to polish the works to be shown at the Japanese Painting Division of Taiten.

1.The Chun Meng (Spring Bud) Painting Society
Born in Chiayi, Lin Yu-Shan started his training in Japan in 1926 and in the very next year was selected into the Japanese Painting Division of Taiten along with Chen Chin and Kuo Hsueh-Hu, becoming dubbed the “Three Youths of Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition”. In 1928, in launching the painting research group “Chun Meng (Spring Bud) Painting Society”, Lin Yu-Shan along with Chu Fu-Ting enlisted in Chiayi and Tainan such painters as Pan Chun-Yuan, Wu Zuo-Chuan, Lin Tung-Ling, Huang Ching-Shan, Shih Yu-Shan, Hsu Ching-Lian, Pu Tian-Sheng, Chen Zai-Tian and others. Their first exhibition was held in the Tainan Public Hall in the spring of 1930 but shortly afterward they moved their operation to Chiayi to be later joined in succession by Chang Li Te-He, Lu Yun-Sheng, Huang Shui-Wen, Li Chiu-He and others who followed Lin Yu-Shan as pupils. Reconstituted as the Chun Meng (Spring Bud) Painting Institute in the 1940s, it had remained active, being since Japanese Colonial rule an important force for setting artistic trends in Chiayi that was centered around Lin Yu-Shan.

 Figure 6: Chen Cheng-Po Attending the 5th Chun Meng Painting Society Exhibition: Group Photo and Brief Review
Source: Chen Cheng-Po Paintings and Papers
A gifted western painter himself, Chen Cheng-Po paid close attention to the activities in Chiayi of fellow painters of the Japanese painting style/Toyoga. In June 1934, Chen Cheng-Po after his return from Shanghai made a special trip to the Chiayi Public Hall to attend the 5th Chun Meng Painting Society Exhibition at whose entrance a group photo was taken of him along with Lin Yu-Shan, Chu Fu-Ting, Lu Yun-Sheng, Li Chiu-He and others. After the exhibition, he wrote a brief review, commenting on the works from the aesthetic perspective of western painters as a means of intellectual exchange. Having sojourned in China, he was minded to draw a comparison between the lifelike view of Chu Fu-Ting’s four-parts landscape work Heavy Autumn Rain and the countryside of Suzhou both of which he found to be full of Chinese sentiment. For his part, Chu Fu-Ting in the following year was to go on a sketching journey through southern China in what proved a rather special episode in his life.

 Figure 7: Pu Tien-Sheng, Loquat, Gouache, 1931, 66x46cm
Source: T1067_03_02_0001, Pu Tian-Sheng Sculptures and Papers
Renowned senior sculptor Pu Tian-Sheng was also one of the founding members of the Chun Meng (Spring Bud) Painting Society although he temporarily ended his involvement in the society’s events during his study in Japan in 1931. Spending his formative years in the framing store that his father operated in the Mei Street, Chiayi, Pu Tian-Sheng was no stranger to the fine arts from a young age. At 15, his Gouache work Gamecock was selected into the Hsinchu art exhibition. He moved to Japan during the 1930s, first attending the Kawabata Painting School for sketching before entering the Gouache and Sculpture Departments of the Teikoku Art School (today’s Musashino University), paving the way for his groundbreaking career in Taiwanese sculpture. The piece known as “Loquat” was a Gouache work for study from his early years at the Kawabata Painting School. It depicts in great detail the mottled branches and the slightly reflective smooth green leaves as well as the yet-to-be-mature bluish yellow fruits. Signed in the lower right corner is “Pu Tian-Sheng, Showa Year 7, Written in Tokyo.”

Following the war, Lin Yu-Shan moved to northern Taiwan in the 1950s to work as a teacher and the Chun Meng (Spring Bud) Painting Institute, originally based in Chiayi, also gradually relocated to the north but maintained its dynamism. Besides teaching, Lin Yu-Shan frequently held observational seminars in pursuit of self-improvement with other members of the institute who resided in northern Taiwan, including Lu Yun-Sheng, Li Chiu-He, Huang Ou-Po and others.

 Figure 8: The Paintings of Li Chiu-He
Source: LJK_07_02_0240374, Yang Zhao-Jia Collection
Born in Madou, Tainan, Li Chiu-He (1917 - 1957) migrated to Chiayi in 1930 and joined the Chun Meng (Spring Bud) Painting Society in the next year. A one-time student of Lin Yu-Shan, he excelled at ink-and-water paintings and Gouache. When Li Chiu-He died of illness in 1957, Lin Yu-Shan and others held charity exhibitions for him with more than 70 painters providing nearly a hundred works. In addition, a posthumous exhibition was organized and the Chun Meng (Spring Bud) Painting Institute edited and published a collection entitled “The Paintings of Li Chiu-He”. These events provide evidence that although there are no more records of group exhibitions for the Chun Meng (Spring Bud) Painting Society after the collaborative exhibition in 1954 the painters continued to offer support for one another in ever-flowing affection.

2.The Sendan Group
In February 1930, the other Japanese painting society, the Sendan Group, formally came into being under the leadership of Gobara Koto and Kinoshita Seigai, who were selection committee members of the Japanese Painting Division of Taiten. Many of its founding members were drawn from Taiwanese and Japanese painters active in the officially sanctioned exhibitions, including Lin Yu-Shan, Chen Chin, Kuo Hsueh-Hu, Pan Chun-Yuan, Lin Tung-Ling as well as Miyata Yataro, Nasu Masaki, Murakami Hideo (Wura) and others. It was said that the group derived its name from the paired-leaves of the sandalwood (neem), representing its Taiwanese and Japanese members exchanging ideas and mutually rendering assistance. Other gifted painters like Lu Tieh-Chou, Chen Jing-Hui and Nomura Sengetsu were later inducted on the recommendation of and a vote among existing members. Active in northern Taiwan and holding spring exhibitions in Taipei annually until 1936 when its chief organizer Gobara Koto returned to Japan, the Sendan Group grew dormant and finally dissolved in 1940.

 Figure 9: The Sendan Group Events Scrapbook in the Collection of Kuo Hsueh-Hu
Source: Kuo Hsueh-Hu Paintings and Papers
The Sendan Group held eight exhibitions in total between April 1930 and 1940. A scrapbook held by Kuo Hsueh-Hu contains such precious materials from the 1st to the 5th exhibitions as group photos of members, images of the venues, reports and newspaper clippings of commentary on the exhibitions, the members’ painting cards, notices and posters. Left to right: (1) commemorative photo during the tentative first exhibition in April 1930, with written names below for the figures in the photo; (2) notice for the second exhibition in 1931, with handwritten notes on printing and dispatching schedule visible; (3) Chen Chin’s and Kinoshita Seigai’s paintings on display during the second exhibition; (4) notice for the fourth exhibition in May 1933, mentioning Taiwanese scenery paintings from each of the group’s 16 members in the celebration of the ascension to the throne of Puyi, emperor of Manchukuo. These paintings would later be assembled in The Taiwan Landscape Paintings to be dedicated to Manchukuo in 1934.

In organizing exhibitions, painters also gained ample practical experiences. Kuo Hsueh-Hu once recalled that as a full-time painter based in Taipei and in close contact with Gobara Koto, he had to single-handedly manage matters large and small for the Sendan Group’s art exhibitions - from printing posters to contacting members and newspapers to setting the scene for the exhibitions and the arrangement of works on display. These hands-on experiences at the Sendan Group came in handy for him when he later began managing businesses as varied as individual exhibitions, Group Exhibitions and the Taiwan Provincial Fine Arts Exhibition - all the while expanding his social network and getting more opportunities for the sale of paintings through his experiences with receiving officials and local gentry who visited exhibitions.


 Figure 10: Kuo Hsueh-Hu, Calm Bond (Bitan), Gouache, 1930, 91x182cm
Source: Kuo Hsueh-Hu Paintings and Papers
Kuo Hsueh-Hu published his work Calm Pond during the 1st Sendan Group Exhibition, whose auction price tag read 200 yen in the exhibition catalog. Drawn on the scene in Bitan, Xindian, its clearly delineated painting style presents large surfaces of a cliff and the dense woods above while delicately depicting the reflection of the rocks and woods in the clear pond water. With a boat taking a spot in it all, an imagery of beauty and leisure emerges. The Taiwan Daily News at the time remarked of it: “innovative technique and bright all over”. An overview of Kuo Hsueh-Hu’s works in successive Sendan Group Exhibitions and his earlier works of finer, more colorful quality that were selected into the Taiten reveals that his painting style had evolved from the detailed to the straightforward - perhaps itself a concrete example of unrestrained experimentation on the part of the painter.

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