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Chiayi Street Scene



1934, 畫布油彩, 91×116.5cm

oil on canvas





    A modern office building rises above the city street, creating an interesting contrast with the surrounding wooden houses and traditional storefronts. Around the building, rays of light begin to softly illuminate the scene, paving the street with a warm, yellow glow. A tall tree in the foreground stretches open its branches to form a curtain of leafy shade, as if to offer passersby respite from the brilliant heat. If you try to imagine yourself walking down this Chiayi street, perhaps its warmth will envelop you, too.






Mount Jade Photo Studio





    In 1927, the photographer Fang Qing-mian moved to Chiayi to start his own business. He bought the Mount Jade Photo Studio, which was located on the street corner depicted in this painting, and ran the business without changing its name. Renowned for his mountain photography, Fang crisscrossed Taiwan—camera in hand—capturing the beauty of Mount Jade, Alishan, Batongguan, and other stunning peaks. To this day, his work lives on as a remarkable tribute to the natural mountain landscapes and culture of early Taiwan.








Lu Tian-deng, editor. Meeting Yushan Through Time and Space. Shuili Township: Yushan National Park, 2010, pp. 86.




“Traffic keeps left” signpost





    The practice of driving on the left side of the road was established in Taiwan by the Japanese colonial government. The Governor-General’s Office actively sought to implement this policy on a local level with traffic signs, traffic controllers, and school campaigns among other means, but was met with limited success. After the war, conforming to traffic regulations introduced by the Republic of China, it once again became customary in Taiwan to drive on the right side of the road.





Yong Li Store





    Above the green arched doorway of a two-story building, four block Chinese characters read “Yong Li Store.” This trading company specialized in selling a variety of metal parts, tools, and machinery. If you ever find yourself in Chiayi with a moment to spare, you might enjoy stopping by the intersection of Xingzhong Street and Zhongzheng Road. You’ll find that out of all the buildings which appear in this painting, the only one still standing is the old Yong Li Store.





Chiayi City Hall. Chiayi City Fifth Anniversary Review. Chiayi: Chiayi City Hall, 1935, pp. xxii, Native Islanders Street.





 4. 豐茂金物商

Fengmao Hardware Store





    Operated by the family of prominent local figure Luo Mao-song, the Fengmao Hardware Store was easily identifiable by the large shop sign over its doorway. At its outset, the company dealt in steel building materials and assorted metal goods. As Fengmao continued to expand its operations during the 1930s, it opened a branch in Kaohsiung. The company also opened a factory in Chiayi’s Beishewei neighborhood which produced various goods, including asbestos-lined chimney flues and chain link fencing for chicken coops.  






Su Mu-qiao, editor. Photography about Chiayi City, vol. 2. Chiayi: Chiayi Cultural Affairs Bureau, 2002, pp. 25.




Chiayi’s new landmark





    Completed in 1934, the three-story reinforced concrete building housed the business offices of the Fengmao Trading Company. At the time, it was a structure the likes of which had never before been seen in the streets of Chiayi. Chen Cheng-po’s streetscape paintings often draw attention to the spectacular ways in which modern civilization was changing cities and skylines. Thus, the distinctive architecture of this building may have been what sparked Chen’s interest in painting this scene. 




6. 素描






    Chen completed at least three pencil sketches of the street corner depicted in this painting. It’s interesting to look at the sketches altogether because they reveal how Chen experimented with different elements, such as shifting the vantage point, using a vertical instead of horizontal canvas, and eliminating the tree on the righthand side. Within these sketches, two things that remain constant are the inclusion of the mountains in the background and the figures, interacting amicably, in the foreground.




風景速寫(107)-SB13:34.8.3  1934   紙本鉛筆   18×12cm

Landscape Sketch-SB13:34.8.3  1934    Pencil on paper   18×12cm

風景のスケッチ(107)-SB13:34.8.3 1934 紙、鉛筆 18×12cm


SB13-098 風景速寫(108)-SB13(33.5-34.9)約1933-1934   紙本鉛筆   18×12cm

Landscape Sketch-SB13(33.5-34.9) ca. 1933-1934   Pencil on paper   18×12cm

風景のスケッチ(108)-SB13(33.5-34.9) 1933-1934頃  紙、鉛筆 18×12cm



風景速寫-34.8.3(2)  1934   紙本鉛筆  19.1×25.5cm

 Landscape Sketch-34.8.3 (2)  1934   紙本鉛筆  19.1×25.5cm

風景のスケッチ-34.8.3 (2) 1934 紙、鉛筆  19.1×25.5cm



Streetside arcades (tîng-á-kha)





    Streetside arcades offer pedestrians an escape from sweltering heat and rainy weather. As a result, this architectural design became popular across southern China and southeast Asia, regions well-known for their hot and rainy climates. During the Japanese era, Chiayi’s local government mandated the construction of streetside arcades as part of a municipal renovation project. From that point on, these spaces became a common sight lining the city’s lively streets.





The principles of art restoration





    As with several of Chen’s other oil paintings, Chiayi Street Scene has undergone careful artistic restoration. On the lower left side of the canvas, paint had begun to peel off in large flakes. In line with art conservation principles, Professor Kijima Takayasu touched up the area with a removable paint which was similar in color to the original, seamlessly blending in the traces of restoration with the artist’s own brushstrokes.