Friday, July 26, 2013

Dong Tong, Portrait Artist

Daily Inter Ocean
(Chicago, Illinois)
August 10, 1881
(click images to enlarge)

New York Herald
September 20, 1881

Chicago City Directory 1882
second column

Cincinnati Commercial Tribune
November 28, 1882

Cincinnati Daily Gazette
December 2, 1882

Morning Herald
(Baltimore, Maryland)
December 9, 1882

Chicago City Directory 1885
second column

Deseret Evening News
(Salt Lake City, Utah)
February 26, 1885

(Next post August 2: Sun Yow Pang, Student and Artist)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Chang Kwang-Yu In Asia Magazine

February 1937
“The Actors in China’s Drama
as seen by the cartoonist Chang Kwang-Yu”

Chang Kwang-yu did not visit the United States but his art
was published in this U.S.-produced magazine.

In the January 1937 issue of T'ien Hsia Monthly, Chen I-fan (Jack Chen) said:

China has only just awakened to the fact that a vigorous school of cartooning has developed. There is still much immaturity of ideas and form in the majority of these cartoons but one must make allowance for the youth of the art in China — a little over five years — and of the artists — few of them are over thirty. Yet they can already take a well-earned place in the world of cartoons. Chang Kwang-yu is probably their foremost master of decorative form and political wit. Others like Yeh Ch'ien-yu—impossible as this may seem—are using that age-old art instrument—the Chinese brush—in a new way,—thanks purely to the fact that as active commentators on the course of political and social life they have developed a new vision, a new feeling for form. 

In the May 1938 issue of Asia, Jack Chen said:

Chang Kwang-yu is the most talented of three cartoonist brothers. Nearing forty, he is the oldest of them all. He teaches design at the Shanghai School of Art, has assisted at the birth of fifteen magazines, some of which are still hale and hearty as he is himself (he looks like the Chinese god of laughter!) and has a vigorous style, at present much influenced by Covarrubias. He it was who got China’s leaders accustomed to being caricatured without feeling that their dignity had “lost face” — for he cartooned them so suavely, so incisively and with such humor that they accepted his verdict much as the old Emperors accepted the verdicts of their venerable Censors.

In a typical series of cartoons, four of which were reproduced as a page feature in the February, 1937, Asia, he shows Chiang Kai-shek as a young stage hero; Feng Yu-hsiang making up for a new turn as a heroic stage general; Sun Fo as a rhomboid goldfish; Eugene Chen, always “up to tricks,” is shown as a monkey; H.H. Kung is in the guise of an ancient mandarin selling a large Nationalist bank note; T.V. Soong is a royal servitor carrying a load of Chinese silver “shoes” and tight-rope walking on an American flag.

(Next post July 26: Dong Tong, Portrait Artist)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Jack Chen on China’s Militant Cartoons

May 1938

China’s Militant Cartoons
by Jack Chen

Six years ago there was no cartooning in China worth writing about. It is one of the youngest of the modern arts that have grown out of China’s struggle to master the progress of the West and yet retain her soul. And it bears all the marks of that struggle.

It was persecuted from birth by the reaction that then sat in the saddle of government, and even in 1936, in October, when the first national exhibition of cartooning was held in Shanghai, old-fashioned esthetes still called it disdainfully, in the colorful “scholars’ ” colloquial, “a small means of cutting up insects”—that is to say, an inconsequential art. Yet by then more than a dozen cartoon magazines were being published, delighting readers in all the main cities and playing an important part in the modern national movement. The Shanghai exhibition attracted more attention than any preceding art show, and even the venerable Lin Sen, President of the Republic, smiled approval.

In August, 1937, the Japanese invasion threatened the main technical base of the cartoonists in Shanghai. They mobilized in the government propaganda units in defense of their country and their cartooning; for one thing was evident–Japanese domination spelled the absolute suppression of modern art in China, cartooning included.

Such is the brief history of this newcomer to the ancient arts of China. Yet a consideration of it gives a vivid insight into contemporary China — for this is above all an art of the present, and therefore an immediate signpost to the future.

Its practitioners are also young. They do not as a group belong to any particular political party, but represent in the main the interests of the young nationally conscious intelligentsia, and they are typical of China’s revolutionary students. Not one of them is over forty. The vast majority of them are in their teens or late twenties. They are all former or part-time students, newspaper men, teachers, commercial artists, clerks. There are surprisingly few with a natural inclination for purely salacious humor; and ninety-nine per cent are animated by a sincere desire to save their country from colonial subjugation. This I stress, because the general level of political and national consciousness of Chinese artists is low. And it is a fact that there is not one avowedly reactionary cartoonist. En masse they are anti-imperialist, anti- feudalist. Their sympathies are all with the underdog.

This alone is enough to make them anathema to the Japanese invaders. It also made them anathema to the die-hard scholar bureaucrats of the old regime and the militarists who pulled the strings of the Nanking government from 1927 to 1936. But, added to their denunciations of aggression, Fascism, political corruption, feudalism and so forth, the cartoonists have shown an utter disregard for the hitherto inviolable traditions of “classical” Chinese art, making daring experiments with both European and Chinese art forms and techniques. Disdainful in their turn, they ridiculed the old-fashioned “bird and bamboo” painters and those would-be Westerners who “spent their time with nudes and apples.”

Meanwhile ever wider progressive national bourgeois circles, increasingly favoring the “united front” platform of democratic national unity against Japan, tended to encourage the anti-imperialist and anti-feudalist stand of the cartoonist, but I looked askance at the more radical tendencies among them that might be calculated to arouse the masses.

In a lengthy conversation with me, Mr. T.C. Wang, an editor of “modern Puck,” one of the three leading cartoon magazines, which specializes in reprints from abroad, declared that the one event that had done most to develop cartooning in China was the “Manchurian incident.” This was tragic farce in the grand manner. Adequate comment on it was possible only in the form of caricature. For it meant simply that a vast territory containing thirty million people was occupied because a rail and two sleepers had been damaged by a grenade. The young revolutionary students reacted to this politically in their demonstrations, artistically in their cartoons.

Since this was not a fair weather art, it did not attract those in search of fame or fortune. Quite the contrary. It offered poverty and hard knocks. The history of the first group of cartoonists is typical. Out of ten members, one died without enough money to pay for his funeral; one joined the government and secured a moderately paid job that kept him from doing embarrassing cartoons, one disappeared after publishing a particularly pointed anti-Kuomingtang cartoon, six managed to hold together, to be joined by a seventh who had been in hiding for four years during the years of bitterest persecution of “Leftists” after the fall of the Wuhan government in 1927 and the split of the united front between the Communist Party and the Kuomintang. The survivors met at the home of their dead friend, whither they had all unknowingly come on the same mission — to give him a regular funeral. Of these seven, three had steady jobs that paid fifty dollars gold a month, and they earned perhaps fifty more by extra work. These are the best paid cartoonists in China. The rest scrape along as best they can, editing, teaching, doing odd jobs. And yet—making cartoon history.

Naturally all of these young men are not idealists yearning for martyrdom. Far from it. Many are only part-time artists. They have to get their overflowing thoughts and feelings off their chests and so turn to cartooning as a pleasant way of doing it. Few of them are professional revolutionaries with a consistent philosophy, using cartooning as a means of propagating their views. But the vast majority are certainly inspired in the first place by a sharp realization of the grim reality of life in China, and the new Japanese invasion has driven this home even more surely. However gloomy and grotesquely terrible their drawings may seem to the casual foreign reader, they are inspired by a feeling of realism, new to Chinese art. They are made by young men who are not afraid to look facts in the face as a necessary preliminary to overcoming the worst aspects of life in contemporary society.

Mr. Lin Yutang remarks that the essence of classical Chinese art is its striving for harmony with nature. The young art of these militant young cartoonists marks a momentous, a revolutionary, change. They take Nature (or the Established Order of Things) by the forelock and give her a good walloping in order to make her behave!

For performing this highly necessary and responsible task they receive from fifty cents to a dollar and a half gold for a cartoon — or less! Full-page drawings in color sell for three to five dollars gold. A young artist tells me that in order to make a reasonable living he has to print fifty or more drawings a month. And this is not regular work. Much time is spent placing the drawings. Collecting for them is merely a waiting job. Cooperative magazines, however, have given steady work and relative security to an increasing number.

The first solid basis for cartooning was made three or four years ago with the founding of the first magazine devoted exclusively to cartooning— "The Shanghai Sketch." This dealt mainly with social satire, and, as the political censorship became more severe in 1933-1934, it leaned heavily on rather salacious humor to increase its sales. The "Modern Sketch," more political in content, appeared soon after. Since then many other ventures have risen and died precipitately. All the cartoon magazines of any size were concentrated in Shanghai, and in addition several newspapers and general magazines ran occasional cartoons and "funny strips. With the start of the new Japanese invasion, the tousled-headed editor of the Manhwa Ho Shangho was preparing for his fifth resurrection. This is typical of these incorrigible social reformers. Today, in a political atmosphere that is free for the first time for open struggle against the main danger to China — Japanese aggression— the cartoonists feel that their brushes are freed to attain the utmost power of their art.

After the somewhat staid company of the “accepted” and classical scholar painters burdened by old world conventionality, the frank and unconventional camaraderie of the cartoonists makes an enjoyable change. They are all remarkably like their humorous brethren the world over in the democratic newspaper world. At their cafe parties they draw on the tablecloths in the approved manner and exchange all the latest methods of attaining infallibly original compositions and “ideas.”

The cartoon journals, with a prewar circulation of some forty thousand each, in a crowded magazine field, cater to the younger generation of Chinese whom life has amply fitted to enjoy the pointed humor and vitriolic satire of the cartoonists. Moreover, this is most essentially a man’s art, which indulges in what is best described as “Elizabethan coarseness.” These is necessarily a certain amount of eroticism, influence to a large extent by such journals as the American Esquire, but with an element of quite Chinese abandon.

But low rates of pay and a state of affairs in which every new recruit to the art is welcomed as a worker on the cartoon front rather than as a potential competitor, naturally result in the production of a large amount of stuff that is technically very weak and even irritatingly naive in artistic conception, no matter how laudable in motive.

Despite early disregard and stringent political censorship, however, the 1936 exhibition of cartoons in Shanghai showed the formation of a distinctly national school of cartooning. Western influence was of course very strongly evident, but it was expressed as adaptation rather than as imitation. Though the content of the show was such as to interest progressive artists in any country, the texture, the treatment, the vision were — as they should be — Chinese.

The scope of work is wide, from the fiercely political to the merely humorous. And pure "nonsense " also has its share. Probably the most popular cartoon creation is "Mr. Willie Buffoon" — the man with the snozzle. Mr. Buffoon is always either getting into some ridiculous trouble or finding some ridiculous way of getting out of a dilemma. He is really only a caricatured version of his creator Wang Yao, a young artist- journalist with a childlike sense of humor, who would obviously take a great delight in doing all the things that Mr. Buffoon does in his fertile imagination. Mr. Buffoon, for instance, is seen walking over a snow-covered landscape. He sees a beggar lying frozen in the snow. Evidently inspired by the Biblical ethics imported into China, he gives his clothes to the beggar, sends him on his way — and lies down in the beggar's place ! On another occasion he is shocked in a museum by the nudity of the Venus de Milo. He restores his equanimity by judiciously applying sticking plaster to the offender. One cannot miss the similarity between the humor of Mr. Buffoon and that of Charlie Chaplin, for it is fundamental. Both personify the humorous situations with which the petty bourgeois finds himself confronted in the process of learning to master the intricacies of the modern capitalist civilization. Mr. Buffoon is eminently a national product, however. His adventures are Chinese adventures.

“Mr. Wang,” a triangular-headed, middle-class philistine, proud possessor of all the typical Chinese vices, is the second leading character of the Chinese “funnies,” created by Yeh Chen-yu, an outstanding caricaturist and draughtsman. “Mr. Wang” is the Chinese prototype of David Low’s “Colonel Blimp,” but gradually the humor of his life has taken on a spirit of pungent social satire, not untouched with bitterness, which considerably detracts from his value as a funny, but has made him an epic figure in Chinese satire.

Chang Kwang-yu is the most talented of three cartoonist brothers. Nearing forty, he is the oldest of them all. He teaches design at the Shanghai School of Art, has assisted at the birth of fifteen magazines, some of which are still hale and hearty as he is himself (he looks like the Chinese god of laughter!) and has a vigorous style, at present much influenced by Covarrubias. He it was who got China’s leaders accustomed to being caricatured without feeling that their dignity had “lost face” — for he cartooned them so suavely, so incisively and with such humor that they accepted his verdict much as the old Emperors accepted the verdicts of their venerable Censors.

In a typical series of cartoons, four of which were reproduced as a page feature in the February, 1937, Asia, he shows Chiang Kai-shek as a young stage hero; Feng Yu-hsiang making up for a new turn as a heroic stage general; Sun Fo as a rhomboid goldfish; Eugene Chen, always “up to tricks,” is shown as a monkey; H.H. Kung is in the guise of an ancient mandarin selling a large Nationalist bank note; T.V. Soong is a royal servitor carrying a load of Chinese silver “shoes” and tight-rope walking on an American flag.

Youngest of this group is Wu Ko (one of whose drawings appeared in the February, 1938, Asia), a young man with wavy black hair who is never satisfied with anything short of perfection even though the editors pay only a fifth of what his work is worth. Like Yeh Chen-yu, Wu Ko and Chang Kwang-yu make extensive use of the old Chinese brush and ink and, though it would hardly seem possible, are actually developing a new technique of work with these materials which have been the art medium of China’s painters for over two thousand years in unbroken tradition. This return to the classical Chinese art medium, to explore it again from the point of view of modern themes and outlook, is a new departure in cartooning; for all the early efforts in this branch of art were with western art tools, pen, opaque water color and the like. Also noteworthy is the fact that, in substantiating their claims regarding the importance of their art, the cartoonists now point to the West and — to the weighty authority of the two-thousand-year-old past: the didactic artists of the Han. This is useful in arguments with die-hard traditionalists — it makes much of their traditional authority seem quite modern!

Endlessly inquisitive, the younger cartoonists change their styles as often and with as much facility as the chameleon changes the color of its skin and here also the idea of “protective coloring” has probably played its role. Many, however, honestly carry on that old tradition of Chinese artists whereby the ability to copy at will the style of any given master is regarded as something of a virtue to which nothing of the stigma of plagiarism attaches. So much so indeed that the critic has often to refer to the “present” style of the artist. Two different styles of Wang Tse-mei, for instance, are shown on page 310. Lo Tse-tsiang has lately passed from under the influence of George Grosz to that of Diego Rivera, and with equal fluency in either style depicts and comments on the life of China’s submerged millions. Teh Tsung-kung, late of Tientsin, has settled on a naive style of straight-hitting political cartoons, heavily influenced by the artists of the French magazine L’ Humanite.

George Grosz, introduced to China by the late Lu Hsiin, was the first influential foreign cartoonist among the younger men. They assimilated both his style and his bitter social satirical outlook. Among the best of these men are Ma Nung-chun, regular contributor to “Modern Sketch,” and Tsa Jo-hung, staff cartoonist of “Life Weekly News,” most popular weekly in China and the successor to the famous string of banned and radical publications of which “Eternal Life” was the one before the last.

Boris Efimov of the Soviet Izvestia next attracted the principal attention. Recent interest has shifted to England's David Low and America’s Fitzpatrick and Fred Ellis.

The cartoonists also include in their ranks a large number of decorative artists, graduates of the Chinese art schools, most of whom are commercial artists as well, whose work could grace the pages of any magazine. They have the neat “finish” characteristic of this type of artist. They specialize in jokes on high life, detailed caricatures of celebrities in sport, society and art life. It is among these that the sex element is most evident.

Then there are scores of anonymous cartoonists who send in their efforts to the papers by the waste-basketful! In most countries these would-be cartoonists would not be given serious consideration, but in China they have a special significance; they are recruits to an art movement that has developed as an opposition movement to powerful reactionary forces, an art that regards itself as the unofficial spokesman and censor of the people in the struggle for free national democratic institutions.

Cartooning is a vivid expression of the democratization of art in the former Celestial Empire. The modern Chinese artist wants to speak to the widest masses of the people in effective idiomatic terms, concerning himself directly with politics from the national democratic point of view, and hence many artists turn to cartooning. Their uncompromising stand for the rights of the people makes their present struggle against Japanese imperialism one of life or death. Thus Fascism and Japanese imperialism are the main butts of their satire, while a militant democracy is lauded.

(from the contents page)
Jack Chen (whose Chinese name is Chen I-wan) did what were probably the first daily cartoons for a Chinese organ, in the People’s Tribune at Hankow in 1946. Later he went to Moscow, where he was art critic for the Moscow Neat and for several years Moscow correspondent of the New Theatre magazine. Mr. Chen visited the United States during the early months of 1938, but has now returned to China. 

(Next post July 19: Chang Kwang-Yu in Asia Magazine)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Jack Chen in Life Magazine

January 17, 1938
“Young Chinese Artists Cartoon Their Country’s Conquest in Modern Manner”
link to the two-page pictorial

Return to the Middle Kingdom
One Family, Three Revolutionaries, and the Birth of Modern China
Yuan-tsung Chen
Sterling Publishing Company, 2008

...In the United States, Jack was immediately swept up in the same kind of propaganda activity as he had been in London. A devoted band of people in the Friends of China Society were playing the same role as the China Campaign Committee in England. Under their auspices, Jack put on his show in the ACA Galleries in New York.

The New York Times used one of the prints for a cover of its magazine, but the review Jack treasured most was printed in the New York Journal American, dated January 18, 1938. It was loud in its praises of his being a son worthy of his father. “Jack Chen is known to both Chinese and Japanese as ‘Bitter-Brush,’ because he has visually portrayed the fiery anti-Japanese sentiments his father portrayed in words before the ascendancy of General Chiang Kaishek’s nationalist government in China. Chen, in one of his drawings, pictures the Rising Sun of Japan as a huge skull, coming up over the horizon of China.”

Life Magazine sent round a reporter and gave Jack a four-page [sic] spread in early January 1938. When Jack saw this opulent treatment, he thought his financial problems would be solved for several months at least. Somewhat timidly he went to ask the magazine what the honorarium would be. The man Jack spoke to looked genuinely taken aback and pained.

“Why, this spread is worth thousands of dollars to you,” he said truthfully. “Besides, we gave you a terrific review. We compare your cartoons with those of Daniel Fitzpatrick.”

It was Jack’s turn to be so taken aback by the largeness of this sum that he never said  another word. Life Magazine did give him a good write-up. “The will to fight is symbolized by Jack Chen, in a peasant squatting beside his dead child, looking into a future in which there is no other course but to take up his gun and fight Japan. The emotion, the pathos and dignity of the figure suggest the best cartoons of Daniel R. Fitzpatrick of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.”

(Tomorrow: Jack Chen on China’s Militant Cartoons)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Jack Chen, Cartoonist

Return to the Middle Kingdom
One Family, Three Revolutionaries, and the Birth of Modern China
Yuan-tsung Chen
Sterling Publishing, 2008

Chapter 16
Jack Sails into the Eye of a Revolutionary Storm

…His father had a private talk with him and asked if he wanted to work at the soon-to-be-published People’s Tribune. The paper, a four-page English daily, would voice the opinions of the Wuhan government. Eugene decided its general policy, giving the staff wide latitude on the details. Brordin acted as a consultant. The editor, Rayna Prohme, gave the paper her own buoyant slant.

Among those who had come to meet Jack and his sisters, when their ship waddled its way sideways to berth itself by the floating jetty at Hankou, was this young American woman, Rayna Prohme. She had been working for Eugene since they first met in Peking in 1925, as the editor of his newspaper, the People’s Tribune of Peking. When Eugene was appointed foreign minister in 1926, he invited Rayna and her husband, Bill, to come south. Bill was slated to head the new National News Agency, while Rayna ran the newspaper, the Canton Gazette. When the Canton government moved to Wuhan, they followed. There Rayna set out to prepare the first Wuhan issue of the English edition of the People’s Tribune.

Across the road from the Foreign Office Building there stood a large yellowstone three-story mansion containing the editorial offices and printing presses of the People’s Tribune. It had a block to itself, most of it an empty, dusty playground surrounded by a six-foot-high wall. Rayna was at her desk when Jack walked in unannounced one morning in late February. She stood up from her chair to welcome him. A ray of sunlight caught her red hair; her locks were a burst of fire; and underneath then was a most engaging smile. The became friends immediately.

Jack was attracted to Rayna’s vivid personality. Rayna was an all-American girl, friendly, open, and straightforward, just as jack imagined an American girl would be. Without wasting time on preliminaries, she explained how together they would make the People’s Tribune the greets newspaper in the world.

“I have done some drawing while in college, but not too well,” Jack said apologetically. “I liked David Low’s cartoons in the London Star.”

When she heard that he had tried to draw, she was immediately certain that he would make a good cartoonist. Jack’s job became producing cartoons to accompany and highlight her editorials. So, at age eighteen, Jack became the first Chinese editorial cartoonist. And when she heard that he had taken care of the foreign minister’s personal correspondence and scribbled some replies, she instantly discovered the writer and journalist in him....

...Jack’s first cartoon was published on March 12, 1927. His father and Rayna had chosen this day to begin the People’s Tribune of Wuhan because it was Sun Yatsen’s birthday. The picture was of a coolie carrying a pole across his shoulders, a basket on each end. One was marked “wage,” the other “work.” The hopeful caption read: “It balances better now the Kuomintang has come.”

In 1927, Jack and growing millions of Chinese believed in the truth of that drawing. They believed they would be able to add ten cents (Chinese) to the coolies’ daily wage of twenty-five cents for sixteen hours’ work. This was no more than a first, minuscule attempt to alleviate the suffering of the working poor, but it was reviled by the colonialists as a Red plot. Why? Jack was at once confused and disturbed.

The day his first cartoon was published, Rayna congratulated him. “Do you feel great? You are the first Chinese artist recording in cartoons a glorious revolutionary period!”

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(Support you local bookstore and online bookseller. Tomorrow: Jack Chen in Life Magazine)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Jake Lee in Westways Magazine

January 1955
Virginia City, Nevada
(click images to enlarge)

February 1963
“4660—The Year of the Hare”

September 1963
“When the Chinese Came to California”

September 1970
“Jake Lee’s Barn Book”

November/December 2007
“A Splash of Color”

Friday, July 5, 2013

Jake Lee in Ford Times

Ford Times
July 1950
“Celestial Temples in the Golden Hills”
(click images to enlarge)

February 1955
“Chinatown, My Chinatown”

March 1960
“Kan’s Chinese Restaurant”

January 1966
“The Treasures Next Door”

February 1968
“Famous Recipes of Famous Restaurants”
Scandia, California