Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Yun Gee in Who’s Who in China

Who’s Who in China
Biographies of Chinese Leaders
Fifth Edition
The China Weekly Review, 1936
page 68, column 3
(click images to enlarge)

Chu Yun-gee (Chu Yuan-chi) 
Chu Yun-gee, artist; born at Canton, Kwangtung, Feb. 22, 1905; studied Chinese classics and literature in his native village and at age of 13, he wrote the essay “The Morality of the Chinese in the Times of the Three Kingdoms,” in which he expressed radical ideas resulting in serious difference of opinion between him and the school authorities and his leaving the institution; it was at this time that he made his first attempt to paint and chose as his first subject “Kwan Yu,” the famous Chinese warrior-saint in the Three Kingdoms; from that time on, his sole desire was to become a painter and at age of 14 (1921), he went to America, entering the California Art School where he made phenomenal progress and met the well-known modern painter, Otis Oldfield; during the term of his studies, he accumulated some 200 canvasses, but to his awakened spirit, they seemed to be the works of a man who had long been lost in blindness and symbols of his one-time slavishness to the academic and he destroyed them in a bonfire with a prayer, pledging to forget and abandon the academic and to devote his efforts to the vital living art; under the stimulation of Otis Oldfield, he organized an exhibition at the Modern Artists Gallery, San Francisco, which brought his unique talent to public notice and he became well-known as one of the modern painters of that city; after the exhibition, he organised “The Chinese Revolutionary Painters’ Club” there; finding that San Francisco no longer offered him a chance for growth, he went to Paris at age of 20 in the hope of learning more of the painting of the West which he could fuse with that of the East; after his arrival at Paris, he installed himself in a studio in the Latin Quarter and his work received the highest praise in many French art journals; in Dec. 1927, he held his first European exhibition at the Carmine Galleries which was an unparalleled success and during which, he sold most of his paintings, three of which were purchased by the Princess Lucien Murat; shortly after that he held another exhibition at the Salon des Independants and his exhibit, “Confucius,” was declared to be the finest painting done by a Chinese artist since the days of the Sung Dynasty; at about this time, he became acquainted with Raymond Duncan who expressed great admiration for his art and the famous connoisseur, Paul Guillame also extolled him as one of the most charming artists; after having stayed in Paris for three years with a half-year's sojourn in Spain, he returned to America in 1930 at the age of 23; shortly after his arrival in San Francisco, he held an exhibition at the Balzac Galleries and is now still in America doing research work in art; his rise in the art world has been meteoric and in spite of his youth, he has already become internationally known as one of the most outstanding painters of today.


The 1936 book is available at the Internet Archive. The 1931 Who’s Who in China has the above entry (plus a few words) which was based on the biography in the China Weekly Review, February 7, 1931:

Yun Gee, artist; born at Canton, Kwangtung, Feb. 22 1905; son of Mr. Quong On Chue, who once traded in America; studied Chinese classics and literature in his native village; at the age of 13, he wrote the essay “Morality of the Chinese in the Times of the Three Kingdoms”, in which he expressed radical ideas and thereby caused a serious difference of opinion between him and the school authorities, finally resulting in his leaving the institution; it was at this time that he made his first attempt to paint and chose as his first subject “Kwan Yu” the famous Chinese warrior-saint in the Three Kingdoms; from that time on, his sole desire was to become a painter and at age of 14 (1921), he went to America, entering the Californian Art School where he made phenomenal progress and met the well-known modern painter, Otis Oldfield; during the term of his studies, he had accumulated some 200 canvasses, but to his awakened spirit, they seemed to be the works of a man who had long been lost in blindness and symbols of his one time slavery to the academic and he destroyed them in a bonfire with a prayer, pledging to forget and abandon the academic and to devote his efforts in future to the vital living art; under the stimulation of Otis Oldfield, he organized an exhibition at the Modern Artists Gallery, San Francisco, which brought out his unique talent to the public notice and he became well-known as one of the outstanding modern-painters of that city; after the exhibition, he organised “The Chinese Revolutionary Painters’ Club” under the sponsership [sic] of Fain-Chaing and Dr. Yung, two, well-konwn [sic] residents in San Francisco; shortly after this, he held another exhibition, of his works and those of his young disciples in Frisco Chinatown which also won him many admirers; finding that San Francisco no longer offered him a chance for growth, he went to Paris at age of 20 in the hope to learn more of the painting of the West which he could fuse with that of the East; after his arrival at Paris, he installed himself in a studio in the Latin Quarter and his work received the highest praise in many French art journals; in Dec. 1927, he held his first European exhibition at the Carmine Galleries which was an unparalleled success and during which, he sold most of his paintings, three of which were purchased by the Princess Lucien Murat who became his great admirer and patroness; shortly after that he held another exhibition at the Salon Des Independants and his exhibit, “Confucious [sic],” was declared to be the finest painting done by a Chinese artist since the days of the Sung Dynasty some seven centuries ago; it was about, this time, he became acquainted with Raymond Duncan who expressed great admiration of his art and the Famous connoissur [sic], Paul Guillame also extolled him as one of the most charming artists; after having stayed in Paris for three years with a half-year’s sojourn in Spain, he returned to America in 1930 at the age of 23. Again in San Francisco, he held an exhibition at the Balzac Galleries and is now contemplating to hold another exhibition in which he will present to American public all of his works now on their way from Paris; Yun Gee’s rise in the art world has been meteoric and in spite of his youth, he has already become internationally known as one of the most outstanding painters of today.


Standard Union
(Brooklyn, New York)
November 22, 1931


Regarding Yun’s birth year, Joyce Brodsky in her book, Experiences of Passage: The Paintings of Yun Gee and Li-lan (2008), said: “Yun Gee (Gee Wing Yun was his Chinese name) was born in Gee Village (now called Chu Village), Yanglu Town, Kaiping County, Guangdong Province, China, on February 22, 1906, the second son of Quong On Chu and Wong See….”

The China Weekly Review also published Arthur A. Young’s article, “Yun Gee, Chinese Interpreter of East to West”, in its October 18, 1930 issue. His piece was printed in Yun Gee: Poetry, Writings, Art, Memories (2003).

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