Before renaming himself Lin Yu-shan, the great Taiwanese master of painting was born Lin Ying-Kuei on 1st April 1907 in Chiayi, Taiwan. Spanning well over 70 years, Mr. Lin's long and outstanding artistic career coincided with the tumultuous period of modern Taiwanese history marked by vast political, social and cultural change. Lin Yu-shan's art was nurtured by various cultural and artistic traditions ranging from traditional Chinese folk painting, classical Japanese painting and Chinese painting of the Sung Dynasty to the ink paintings of the Chinese Cultural Renaissance Movement in the post-war Taiwan. Every stage of Lin Yu-shan's artistic development can be seen to reflect the social perspectives and cultural milieu of the time. It is through the reflections of the cultural climates of his day that Lin Yu-shan established his unique artistic vision.
Lin Yu-shan was not only an artist of the highest calibre, but also a dedicated art educationist, having fostered many successful gouache painters in his hometown Chiayi during the period of Japanese Colonial Rule, and taught for over 20 years at the Department of Fine Arts, National Taiwan Normal University in the post-war years. He successfully combined the artistic merits of gouache painting and Chinese ink painting to create painting from life rigorous in composition and rich in artistic vision. His unique artistic vision and immense contribution has had a far-reaching impact on generations of Taiwanese artists to come.
Lin Yu-shan's artistic career began in the period of Japanese Colonial Rule, under which the modernization of Taiwanese art was initiated. More specifically, during the course of the colonial period, the Japanese introduced to Taiwan, through the modern educational system, the knowledge and techniques of Western painting. This effectively took Taiwan's mainstream art practice from simply copying masterpieces of ancient Chinese ink painting to modern painting based on observations of the reality – a new, positivist approach which was aligned with the dominant trend of Western modern art of the time. By focussing on painting from life, Taiwanese artists were able to transform ordinary realities – the scenery, people, animals, plants and customs – into creative works of art. Professor Lin's works can be seen to exemplify this approach, which was considered groundbreaking at the time.
Throughout his artistic life – from studying in Japan on two separate occasions, to teaching Japanese painting in his hometown Chiayi during the era of Japanese Colonial rule, to teaching at the Fine Arts Department of the National Taiwan Normal University in the post-war period – Lin Yu-shan's art was most notably informed by close observations of the subjects. Lin placed greatest emphasis on painting from life, not only in his own art practice, but also in his teaching, noting that “painting from life is the foundation of all paintings and a crucial component of art-making. Instead of simply mimicking the physical appearance, the purpose of painting from life is in fact to try capturing the essence and spirit of the subject.” A rigorous painting from life practice has enabled Lin Yu-shan to vividly capture the essence and spirit of his subjects, and at the same time to an excellent command over a wide spectrum of themes including flowers and plants, birds and animals, scenery and landscapes.
This exhibition, Passing on a Lasting Legacy: Paintings by Lin Yu-shan coincided with the 105th anniversary of the birth of Lin Yu-shan to honor his artistic excellence and prolific contributions to Taiwanese art. It features a total of 46 pieces of gouache painting and ink painting as well as 25 pieces of plein-air painting. The works on display, created by Lin Yu-shan in the years between the 1920s and the 1990s, were done using sketching, water-color and ink-color techniques and cover a wide variety of subjects including flowers and plants, birds, animals and scenery. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to National Museum of History, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, the family of Professor Lin Yu-shan and other private collectors for their generosity in lending us the paintings which constitute a large part of this exhibition. We hope that this exhibition will give our viewing public a better understanding of Lin Yu-shan's unique artistic vision and influences.