Home>Exhibitions> Current >Parisian Nostalgia: the National Museum of History's Sanyu Collection
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Parisian Nostalgia: the National Museum of History's Sanyu Collection
2017.03.11 - 2017.07.02
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Sanyu (1901-1966) was born in a rich family in Nanchong, Sichuan Province, China. In his childhood, he learned calligraphy with calligrapher Zhao Xi. He also learned traditional Chinese landscape painting. In addition, the real enlightenment of his artistic career was the “Diligent Work-Frugal Study Movement,” which was advocated by Cai Yuan-Pei. Thanks to this program, Sanyu went to Paris in 1921, becoming one of the earliest students in China to study abroad in France, just like Xu Beihong, Lin Fengmian, and Pan Yuliang around the same time. Instead of accepting formal academic education of fine art like other art students, Sanyu chose to learn painting in the free atmosphere of Académie de la Grande Chaumière. Sanyu, being a romantic, always hung around in cafés in Montparnasse. In 1964, he was invited by the Ministry of Education to return and teach in Taiwan and hold his solo exhibition in the National Museum of History. However, he could not make the trip for personal reason. In 1966, he passed away in Paris because of a gas poisoning accident.

Sanyu’s painting style derives from his learning experience of calligraphy and Chinese traditional ink painting. What’s more, it is filled with the charm of calligraphy. The lines in his paintings can be traced back to the fluency of calligraphy. By using the most traditional tool, the writing brush, Sanyu depicts modern nudes in his eyes stroke by stroke. The Oriental elements in his painting don’t present the aloofness and arrogance of Chinese literati painting, but are full of decorative elements of traditional Chinese crafts. To express the lively festival images, he applies traditional symbols of coins and longevity characters in yellow and gold. For still life, he takes as his subject plants like lotus, bamboo, and chrysanthemum, respectively the symbol of purity, rising and promotion, and retirement in the Chinese tradition. Appreciating his colors, composition, and themes, the viewers can see how the traditional Chinese art influences Sanyu. “Beijing Circus”, a work with animal subject, is created with modern painting skills to express his deep nostalgia for his homeland. The combination of Eastern and Western aesthetic expression forms Sanyu’s unique artistic personality.

There are 49 pieces of oil paintings, all from late phase of Sanyu’s artistic career, in the National Museum of History's collection. Furthermore, there are 3 sketches purchased from private collectors. These works are mainly in three genres: the nude, still life, and landscape and animal. The NMH Sanyu collection is famous for its superior quality and credibility. This year marks the 50th anniversary of his passing away. We are grateful for the Ministry of Culture for providing the budget for the restoration of Sanyu’s art works. “Chrysanthemum” and “Four Nudes” are the two works taken as significant antiquities because of their art value. This exhibition will also display the restoration process of Sanyu’s paintings.

National Museum of History not only holds a solo exhibition for this expatriate artist in France who has never made it to Taiwan in person, but also allow the audience to experience the charm of Sanyu’s art. NMH is the pioneer of national museums that displays the process of cultural relic conservation with the promulgation of the Museum Act. Through this special exhibition, we hope to make more people to realize the importance and process of cultural preservation in Taiwan.
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    Full-price ticket NT$30
    Half-price ticket NT$15