The exhibition has finished
Their Era: The 92nd Annual Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition
A Burst of Light—A Chen Chih-chi Retrospective


Date: Sep 1 to Dec 1 ,2019
Opening Hours: 10:00 to 17:00, from Tuesday to Sunday
Closed Day: Every Monday
Venue: National 228 Memorial Museum(No.54, Nanhai Rd., Zhongzheng Dist., Taipei City 100, Taiwan)
Advised by the Ministry of the Interior, Taiwan
Organized by the Memorial Foundation of 228, National 228 Memorial Museum
Special thanks to: Chen Tzu-chih, Yeh Hsu-fen, Li Chin-hsien, Chiu Han-ni, Suzuki Eka, Yen Chuan-ying, Ni Po-chun, Li Tsung-che, the Chen Cheng-po Cultural Foundation, the Yang San Lang Culture and Education Foundation, and the Chiang Wei-shui Cultural Foundation


The creation of contemporary Taiwanese art

Chen Chih-chi was among Taiwan's first generation of Westernized painters. Born January 1906, Chen Chih-chi passed away in April 1931. He was 26 years old. His life was like a burst of fireworks: exploding on the scene, dazzling in its glow, only to quickly disappear into the night. We celebrate Chen Chih-chi not only for his brilliant use of oil painting through which he expressed his intensely personal aesthetics, but for his abundant participation in various Taiwanese art groups and societies, as well as for his public talks and published articles on the topic of Taiwanese national consciousness. With “the creation of contemporary Taiwanese art” as a goal, Chen Chih-chi stands as one of history's most representative figures during the period of national consciousness and cultural awakening that characterized colonial Taiwan in the 1920s.

In April 1938, the 4th Tai-yang Fine Art Exhibition—held in what is today known as the Former Taiwan Education Hall—featured two special exhibits: sculptures of the late Huang Tu-shui and six paintings by Chen Chih-chi: Zhen Ren Temple, Portrait of My Grandfather, Danshui Landscape, Portrait of a Woman, and Still Life. More than 80 years since the date of that exhibition, these six paintings have, once again, been brought together, along with letters, newspaper articles, and photos from the era to help the viewing public better understand Chen Chih-chi's thoughts on Taiwanese identity and consciousness, as well as appreciate his undeniable contribution to the field of fine arts in Taiwan.

The building that currently houses the National 228 Memorial Museum was constructed in 1931 during the period of Japanese colonial rule. Following the end of WWII, it became offices for the Taiwan Provincial Council and a historic landmark closely associated with pursuit of democratic ideals and the 228 Incident. Later the building was to be managed by the Taiwan Education Association, which counted among its duties the organization of the Taiwan Fine Art Exhibition and providing a venue for the Taiwan Governor's Office Fine Art Exhibition. Altogether, five Taiwan Fine Art Exhibitions and four Governor's Office Fine Art Exhibitions were held in the hall. Exhibiting the works of many of Taiwan's leading artists, the building played an oversized role in the development and popularization of contemporary fine arts in Taiwan. The choice of the National 228 Memorial Museum as the site for this Chen Chih-chi Retrospective is a nod to both the building's and Chen's undeniable importance in the cultural and political history of Taiwan.

Altogether this exhibition features 18 paintings by Chen Chih-chi. It includes the six paintings part of the 4th Tai-yang Fine Art Exhibition of 1938, as well as a number of works from other exhibitions. Chen Chih-chi's Government-General Building and his teacher Ishikawa Kinichiro's Governor's Office, Taipei stand together, while Chen Chih-chi's Zhen Ren Temple and Ni Chiang-huai's painting of the same name are presented side-by-side in recollection of the pair's deep friendship. Also part of the exhibition are letters from home, newspaper clippings, and postcards. Period-specific background material and newspaper reporting offer an introduction to the era in which Chen lived, while 27 articles written in the Taiwan Daily News regarding Chen Chih-chi give us a glimpse into how the artist's life and efforts were received at the time.

This exhibition also aims to explores the life of Chen Chih-chi—from his awakening as an artist, being expelled from school and leaving Taiwan to study painting at the Tokyo Fine Arts School, to his artistic achievements in Taiwan and Japan, and his efforts to gather and teach Taiwanese artists through the founding of and participation in various art groups and societies. In addition to his contributions to the world of art, Chen was also deeply engaged with Taiwan's national movement. He would often travel between Japan and Taiwan in an effort to help progress Taiwanese cultural identity and national consciousness, to the point that he soon found himself trailed by police authorities in both Taiwan and Japan. Regardless of the surveillance he found himself under, Chen Chih-chi never let up in his efforts to elevate the standards of Taiwanese culture, and never gave up in his search for a Taiwanese national identity. His life of dedication is truly a model that continues to inspire and instruct Taiwan's art world.


Life Profile

1906 (Meiji 39)|Birth
  • January 16. Born in Taihoku Cho, Suitengka, Henke to Chen Hai-tang (father) and Lin Chiu (mother). Other members of the family are Chen Ho (sister), Chen Pin-lin (grandfather), and Huang Ching (grandmother).
1913 (Taisho 2)|Age 8
  • Enrolls in a private school where he studies Chinese culture, history, and language.
1915 (Taisho 4)|Age 10
  • Enrolls in the Nangang branch of Xikou Public School (Nangang Public Elementary School, today's Taipei Municipal Nangang Elementary School) where he studies under a modern educational system.
1921 (Taisho 10)|Age 16
  • March 29. Graduates from Nangang Public Elementary School
  • April 1. Enrolls in Taihoku Teacher's College.
1924 (Taisho 13)|Age 19
  • January 1. Chen Chih-chi's New Year's Calligraphy features Li Bai's “Banqueting in Peach Flower Garden: A Preface” composed in clerical script.
  • April. Joins sketching club started by Professor Ishikawa Kinichiro at Taihoku Teacher's College.
  • Beginning of November. Controversy over direction of school trips results in anger among Taiwanese students.
  • November 18. Controversy over school trips continues to burn. Chen Chih-chi and others initiate a class boycott.
  • November 28. As a result of the class boycott, leaders Chen Chih-chi, Chen Hsin, and Hsu Chi, in addition to 30 other students, are expelled.
1925 (Taicho 14)|Age 20
  • February 1. Along with 10 other students expelled from Taihoku Teacher's College, Chen Chih-chi travels by boat to Japan with help from Taiwanese Cultural Association founder Chiang Wei-shui. Upon arrival, he enrolls in Okada Saburōsuke's Hongo Painting Institute.
  • March. Successfully tests into the Western Painting Program of Tokyo Fine Arts School.
  • April. Enrolls in Tokyo Fine Arts School. Resides in Tokyo's Takinogawa. Also begins attending classes at Yoshimura Yoshimatsu's private painting studio.
1926 (Taisho 15)|Age 21
  • March. Outdoor Landscape selected for Kofukai Annual Exhibition.
  • May. Bridge selected for 3rd Shinkaijusha Exhibition.
  • August. Along with seven others, including Ni Chiang-huai, Lan Yin-ting, and Chen Cheng-po, Chen Chih-chi forms the Chi-Hsing Painting Society.
  • August 28-31. Steamer, Tower's Shadow, and Japanese Bridge selected for Chi-Hsing Painting Society's first ever exhibition held at Taihoku New Park Museum (today's National Taiwan Museum).
1927 (Showa 2)|Age 22
  • January 2. Marries Pan Chien-chien, daughter of a prominent family in Shilin.
  • January 27. Returns to Japan accompanied by his wife.
  • April 21. Selected for Japan's 6th Chinese Painting Association Art Exhibition.
  • May. Still Life and Takinogawa Landscape selected for 4th Shinkaijusha Exhibition.
  • September. Participates in 2nd Chi-Hsing Painting Society Exhibition.
  • October. By the Sea receives special recognition and Loving Peach selected for 1st Taiwan Fine Art Exhibition.
  • December. Chen's first son, Chen Chao-yang, is born.
1928 (Showa 3)|Age 23
  • May. Yellow Building selected for 5th Shinkaijusha Exhibition.
  • June. Returns to Taiwan. Settles wife and son in family home located in Shiodome Town, Hengke (today's Xizhi). Returns to Japan alone.
  • September 8~9. Submits 11 paintings as part of 3rd Chi-Hsing Painting Society Exhibition, including Afternoon Harbor, Park, Park Entrance, Still Life, Banyan Tree, Pond's Edge, Scenery of Danshui, Rose, Fishing, Naked, and Parasol.
  • September 12. Essay entitled “To the Artists of Taiwan” published in Taiwan Daily News.
  • October. Taiwan Landscape selected for 9th Japanese Imperial Fine Art Exhibition. Two People, Three People and Still Life on a Table awarded review-exempt status for 2nd Taiwan Fine Art Exhibition.
  • Chi-Hsing Painting Society and Chiyang Western Painting Association merge to become the Chidao Association. Among the society's 13 founding members are Chen Chih-chi, Chen Cheng-po, Liao Chi-chun, Kuo Pai-chuan and Yang San-lang.
1929 (Showa 4)|Age 24
  • January 5~7. Holds a 40-painting solo exhibition at Crown Prince Memorial Hall in Taichung.
  • January 11. Artists and friends gather to congratulate Chen Chih-chi on his selection to the Japanese Imperial Fine Art Exhibition.
  • February 13. Chen Chih-chi returns to Japan to continue his studies.
  • May. Keelung Park selected for 6th Shinkaijusha Exhibition.
  • July 1. Ni Chiang-huai founds the Taipei Western Painting Institute. Chen Chih-chi, Ishikawa Kinichiro, Lan Yin-ting, Hung Jui-lin, Ni Chiang-huai take a group picture at 5pm at the Peng Lai Ge Restaurant in Taipei.
  • August 31~September 3. Chidao Association holds first exhibition at Taipei Museum. Chen Chih-chi participates with 3 paintings: Tung Flower, Beautiful Lady, and Green.
  • October. Banana Garden receives special recognition and Tudigong Temple selected for 3rd Taiwan Fine Art Exhibition.
1930 (Showa 5)|Age 25
  • March 22. Graduates from Tokyo Fine Arts School.
  • April. Banana selected for 2nd Shōtoku Taishi Hōsankai Exhibition.
  • May. Still Life selected for 7th Shinkaijusha Exhibition.
  • May 9~11. Landscape, Flowers, and Still Life submitted for 2nd Chidao Association Exhibition.
  • July. Taipei Western Painting Institute's signboard blown away in a typhoon. Following adjustments to the scale and content of the institute's lectures, name on new signboard changed to Taiwan Painting Institute. The institute begins offering summer lectures and class instruction in plaster work, sketching, and watercolors. The institute is primary run by Chen Chih-chi, Ishikawa Kinichiro, and Yang San-lang.
  • September. Flooding in Shiodome Town (today's Xizhi). Despite being unwell, Chen travels to Japan to participate in the Japanese Imperial Fine Art Exhibition. Arriving in Tokyo, he comes down with pleurisy.
  • October. Danshui Landscape is selected for 11th Japanese Imperial Fine Art Exhibition, while Scenery of Guanyin Mountain, Red Wall, Zhen Ren Temple are all awarded review-exempt status at the 4th Taiwan Fine Art Exhibition. Zhen Ren Temple awarded special recognition.
1931 (Showa 6) |Age 26
  • Late March. Health improves. Chen Chih-chi returns to Taiwan.
  • April 3. Chen's first daughter, Chen Shu-ju, is born.
  • April 3~5. Participates in preview exhibition for 3rd Chidao Association Exhibition held at Taipei City Public Auditorium (today's Zhongshan Hall). Travels to Taichung from April 11~13 for 3rd Chidao Association Exhibition held at Taichung Public Hall.
  • Beginning of April. Chen's pleurisy returns. Hospitalized at Taihoku Imperial University Hospital.
  • April 13. Suffering from pleurisy and meningitis, Chen Chih-chi passes away at his home in Xizhi. He was 26 years old.
  • April 19. Memorial service for Chen Chih-chi held in Taipei.
  • May. On the Street selected for 8th Shinkaijusha Exhibition.
  • September 11~13. Posthumous exhibition organized by Ni Chiang-huai at former Governor-General's Office. In total, 82 of Chen Chih-chi's works displayed. On the exhibition's opening day, Ishikawa Kinichiro publishes a memorial article in Taiwan Daily News.
  • October. Portrait of a Woman awarded review-exempt status at 5th Taiwan Fine Art Exhibition.
  • November. Landscape selected for Shinchiku Prefecture University Fine Arts Exhibition.
1932 (Showa 7)
  • January. Flowers selected for 9th Hakujitsuka Art Exhibition. Danshui Landscape, Still Life, Self-Portrait, Flowers, Zhen Ren Temple all selected for 7th Chun-tai Exhibition.
1934 (Showa 9)
  • October 19~20. The Taiwan New Minpao publishes essay by Hsiao Chin-tsuan entitled: In Memory of Chen Chih-chi.
1935 (Showa 10)
  • January edition of Literary Taiwan publishes essay by Chen's sister Chen Ho entitled: A Reflection on My Brother's Painting Career.
1938 (Showa 13)
  • From April 29 to May 1, a posthumous retrospective of the works of Huang Tu-shui and Chen Chih-chi held at 4th Tai-Yang Fine Art Exhibition. Paintings include Zhen Ren Temple, Portrait of My Grandfather, Danshui Landscape, Portrait of a Woman, and Still Life.



1925~1930|Oil paint on wood|21×27 cm

Portrait of My Grandfather
1931|Oil paint on canvas|45×52.5 cm

Xizhi Street
1930|Oil paint on wood|33×24 cm

Government-General Building
1924|Oil paint on canvas|27.2×36.4 cm

Chen Chih-chi's mentor Ishikawa Kinichiro completed his watercolor painting of the Governor-General's Office (today's Presidential Office) in 1920, a year after the building had been finished in 1919. Using a soft watercolor scheme, the Governor-General Office is shown from a distance. It stands framed by trees to either side thereby focusing the viewer's attention on the central tower.
Chen Chih-chi's oil painting version, completed in 1924, echoes this creative concept and layout. At the time, Chen was studying at Taihoku Teacher's College. Following a student uprising at the school and the mass arrests of the Police Incident, he recognized the power and authority wielded by the Japanese government and thus chose to place the looming, central tower front and center.

Governor's Office, Taipei
Ishikawa Kinichiro|Watercolor on paper|34×25 cm

Persimmons in Hexagonal Dish
1925~1930|Oil paint on wood|33×23.5 cm

Park Entrance|3rd Chi-Hsing Painting Society Exhibition selection
1928|Oil paint on canvas|60×50 cm

Taipei Bridge
1925|Oil paint on canvas|53×46cm

Taipei Bridge, which spanned the Danshui River between Taipei and Sanchong, was completed in June 1925. In addition to serving as an important transportation link between Taipei and Sanchong, the bridge very quickly became an important city landmark. That same year, Chen Chih-chi, who was studying at Tokyo Fine Arts School, returned to Taiwan over summer break to paint the bridge. The painting looks from Sanchong in the direction of Taipei's Dadaocheng and is painted from the vantage point of the river's sandbanks from which we see the bridge's large, red iron trusses, sailboats on the river, and several buildings on the far shore.

Taipei Bridge
LI Shih-Chiao|1927|Watercolor on paper|47×32 cm

1927|Oil paint on canvas|52.5×45 cm

Chen Chih-chi's still lifes not only exhibit keen powers of observation, but also display a distinctive personality and interests both common and cultured. This piece is set off by a red backdrop—a motif often found in Chen's works. In the foreground stands a ceramic statue of Bodhisattva Guanyin, a doll with a black body and red face, a bamboo basket, and several persimmons—all of which have been placed on a traditional du duo embroidered by Chen's mother. Several of these items are still extant today.

Still Life on a Table|2nd Taiwan Fine Art Exhibition review-exempt selection
1928|Oil paint on canvas|72×60 cm

Zhen Ren Temple|4th Taiwan Fine Art Exhibition review-exempt selection
1930|Oil paint on canvas|100×80 cm

Chen Chih-Chi and Ni Chiang-huai (Zhen Ren Temple)

Zhen Ren Temple was a temple found in Taipei during the Japanese colonial period. The temple was located in Kensei-cho (on today's Tianshui Street, near Jiancheng Circle). Near the end of November 1924, Chen Chih-chi was expelled from school due to his part in student protests. After his expulsion, he spent much of his time at Chiang Wei-shui's Taiwanese Cultural Association until he was to leave for Japan in February 1925. In 1927, Chiang Wei-shui, Ling Hsien-tang and others left the Taiwanese Cultural Association to found the Taiwanese People's Party—Taiwan's first political party. The party's headquarters was established in 1930 in a building next to Zhen Ren Temple. Furthermore, the year earlier, Chen Chih-chi's good friend Ni Chiang-huai founded the Taipei Western Painting Institute (renamed Taiwan Painting Institute in 1930) in a building not far from Zhen Ren Temple. Therefore, there was considerable meaning behind Chen's use of this traditional cultural landmark as the focus of his composition.
After Chen Chih-chi passed away in 1933, Ni Chiang-shui painted the same temple from the same vantage point as in Chen's work in remembrance of his good friend who had passed too soon.

Zhen Ren Temple
Ni Chiang-huai|1933|Watercolor on paper|48.5×33 cm

Banana|2nd Shōtoku Taishi Hōsankai Exhibition selection
1930|Oil paint on canvas|90.5×72.5 cm

Keelung Train Station
1928|Oil paint on canvas|90.5×72.5 cm

Portrait of My Wife
1927|Oil paint on canvas|64.5×91 cm

Chen Chih-chi married Pan Chien-chien in Showa 2 (1927). This painting was done the same year the couple married. In the background hangs a scarlet red traditional wedding gown, while Pan Chien-chien sits in the foreground wearing a white, embroidered dress while holding a fan that covers her pregnant belly. In the bottom left corner “Summer of Ding Mao, Chen Chih-chi” is written in fine red ink.

Brick Kiln Factory
1925|Oil paint on canvas|65×50 cm

Japanese Landscape
1925~1930|Oil paint on canvas|90.4×71.5 cm

Danshui Landscape
1925~1930|Oil paint on canvas|90.5×72.5 cm

Danshui Landscape|11th Japanese Imperial Fine Art Exhibition selection
1930|Oil paint on canvas|100×80.5 cm

In this painting we see expressed Chen Chih-chi's long familiarity with the environment and local conditons around Danshui. Using parrell, short strokes of the brush, Chen slowly builds up the composition to depict an intricate warren of buildings and lush vegetation all perched on a hillside. It is said that this piece was orginally in the collection of Taichung's Yang Chao-chia, but returnd to Chen Chih-chi's family soon after Chen's death.

Takinogawa Landscape|4th Shinkaijusha Exhibition selection
1925~1927|Oil paint on canvas|53×65 cm

This piece was painted in the period between 1925 and 1927 during which Chen Chih-chi was living in Takinogawa as a student of Tokyo Fine Arts School. Chen choose to reside in Takinogawa as it was not far from the Tokyo Fine Arts School, as well as being close to Tabata-cho where Yoshimura Yoshimatsu's private painting studio was located. It is no surprise, therefore, that Takinogawa's streets, multi-storied buildings, and channels were often featured in Chen's paintings.


A Youth from Hengke with an Unyielding Temperament

A leader and proponent for social justice

Chen Chih-chi was born January 1906 in the area of Hengke in Taipei's Xizhi District. Chen's family had lived in the area for several generations as landowners and farmers. Heavily influenced by his grandfather, Chen enrolled in a local private school at the age of eight where he learned to read and write Chinese, as well as study the Chinese classics.

In 1914, Chen Chih-chi enrolled in the Nangang branch of Xikou Public School where he was exposed to a modern, westernized curriculum. Tall and thin, Chen was an enthusiastic student who carried an air of leadership and was both a popular and influential figure on campus. In 1921, Chen tested into the elite Governor-General's Taihoku Teacher's College (today's University of Taipei).

Amidst school studies, an opportunity to study painting

In 1924, Ishikawa Kinichiro was invited to teach in Taiwan and became a painting teacher at Taihoku Teacher's College. Ishikawa established a sketching club at the college that met on weekends. Members of the club included both Chen Chih-chi and Ni Chiang-haui, with the two young men soon becoming fast friends.

Student protests lead to class boycott and expulsion

In February 1922, an incident in which two Taiwanese students of Taihoku Teacher's College violated left-hand traffic rules set off the school's first student movement. The students, who later faced trial in court, would receive assistance from Taiwanese Cultural Association members Lin Hsien-tang, Chiang Wei-shui, and Yang Chao-chia. Following, in December 1923, under a directive of the Governor-General's Office, figures of Taiwan's nationalist movement were rounded up in a mass arrest for contravening the Public Order and Police Law. Observing the continued repression by the Japanese authorities, the seeds of an anti-authoritarian consciousness, as yet unexpressed, began to grow in Chen Chih-chi's heart.

In November 1924, Taihoku Teacher's College began planning its annual student field trip. Ignoring the wishes of the Taiwanese who composed a majority of the study body that the trip head south, the school instead adopted the request of its Japanese students to visit Ilan on Taiwan's east coast. Taiwanese students expressed their displeasure to school president Shihota Syōkichi to no effect. As a result, Chen Chih-chi led a group of fourth year students in a class boycott on November 18. Response by the authorities was swift and on November 28, Chen and 30 other students were expelled. However, this was to be an important turning point in Chen's life.

Chen Chih-chi's family home in Xizhi, Hengke (circa 1920)

Chen Chih-chi's New Year's calligraphy featuring Li Bai's “Banqueting in Peach Flower Garden: A Preface” composed in clerical script (January 1, 1924)

Ishikawa Kinichiro

Ishikawa Kinichiro and students of the Taihoku Teacher's College sketching club

Ni Chiang-huai

A sketch of Chen Chih-chi done by his good friend Ni Chiang-huai

First council meeting of members of the Taiwanese Cultural Association (1921)

The January 1, 1925 (Daisho 14) edition of The Taiwan Minpao featured two articles on the school trip controversy at Taihoku Teacher's College: (bottom right) “Students' Sorrow and Painstaking Efforts by Xue Gu” and (top left): “A Few Thoughts on the Class Boycott at Taihoku Teacher's College.” In the first article, Xue Gu refers to Chiang Wei-shui as the article goes on to discuss the expelled students being boarded at Daan Hospital, while parents hope to negotiate with the school principal to rescind the expulsion order.

An article published in February 21, 1925 (Taisho 14) in The Taiwan Minpao entitled Aspiring Young Students to Travel Abroad for Study.
The article details the assistance extended by the Taiwanese Cultural Association to students expelled from Taihoku Teacher's College following a class boycott, as well as the farewell reception hosted by the Association for the boys prior to their leaving to study overseas. The article mentions Chen Chih-chi as offering a thank-you speech during the reception.

Chen Chih-chi had a habit of colleting newspaper clippings. These clippings come from newspaper articles published on February 21 and 22, 1925. The articles discuss the decision of the supreme court regarding those recently arrested for violating the Public Order and Police Law (above) and news of Chiang Wei-shui being taken into custody (below). At the time, Chen was already in Tokyo. These clippings show that, despite being overseas, Chen continued to closely follow the happenings of the Taiwanese nationalism movement.


A Period of Study and Responsibility in Japan

Timely assistance from mentor Ishikawa Kinichiro


In the months following the student uprising at Taihoku Teacher's College, Chen Chih-chi pondered his next step. His teacher, Ishikawa Kinichiro, who had high hopes for Chen as an artist, paid a visit to the Chen family home to ask Chen's parents for help in sending their gifted son to Japan. In February 1925, Chen set off for Japan to begin prepping for enrollment at Tokyo Fine Arts School (today's Tokyo University of the Arts).


Studying in Japan


Arriving in Tokyo in February 1925, Chen passed the school's entrance exam in April and soon after enrolled in the Western Painting Program of Tokyo Fine Arts School. During his studies, he rented a room in Tokyo's Takinogawa district. Passionate and dedicated, he supplemented his art studies with classes at Yoshimura Yoshimatsu's private painting studio. Although money was tight and life overseas hard, Chen was untiring in his efforts. He set for himself the lofty goals of selection to the Japanese Imperial Fine Art Exhibition and making a name for himself in the art scene. In one of his letters to home, he wrote: “In order to survive as an artist, selection for the Japanese Imperial Fine Art Exhibition is paramount; otherwise, my life will be no different from that of a beggar.”



In January 1927, Chen took advantage of the new year's holidays to return to Taiwan and marry his fiancée Pan Chien-chien—second daughter of Shilin Village mayor Pan Kuang-kai. Later that month, Chen returned to Japan to continue his studies accompanied by Pan Chien-chien. In December, the couple had their first son, Chen Chao-yang. Altogether, the couple lived in Tokyo for close to a year. During this period, Chen finished several portraits in which his wife sat as a model.



In November 1927, Chen Chih-chi became a member of the Tokyo Overseas Chinese Student YMCA. He was also in frequent contact with the founders and members of the Tokyo New People Society, Taiwan Youth Association, and Taiwanese Cultural Association. These relationships meant that Chen was under constant surveillance by Japanese police—both in Taiwan and Japan. Despite this, his commitment to the improvement of the state of Taiwanese cultural consciousness remained undiminished.


Unflinching in his duty to help his countrymen


Born to a wealthy family, Chen Chih-chi, a natural leader, often went out of his way to help his fellow artists and countrymen. Many Taiwanese painters, including Li Mei-shu, Li Shih-chiao, Hong Jui-lin, and Chang Wan-chuan received assistance from Chen during their stays in Japan. In 1955, Li Shih-chiao published an essay entitled “Sour, Bitter, and Sweet” in the 1955, Volume 3, Issue 4 publication of Taipei Artefacts titled Art and Sports: A Special Issue. In it he writes: “… after I arrived in Tokyo, during the two years I was there, we spent much time together. He was a teacher and a mentor. His influence was continuous. This marked one of the most important periods of my career.”


Identity certificate carried by Chen Chih-chi as he prepares to study at Tokyo Fine Arts School in 1925

Chen Chih-chi sits facing an easel with brush in his hand surrounded by classmates from Tokyo Fine Arts School

Yoshimura Yoshimatsu


Exhibition success reveals outstanding talent

In 1926, Chen Chih-chi's work was selected for both the Shinkaijusha and Kofukai Annual Exhibitions, which were held by research art groups unaffiliated with the Tokyo Fine Arts School. Starting in 1927 and every year following, Chen Chih-chi's works were selected for the Taiwan Fine Art Exhibition. His paintings were often given review-exempt and special-selection status—the highest honors awarded by the exhibition. In 1928, Chen finally broke into the highest levels of Japan's art scene when his Taiwan Landscape was selected for the 9th Japanese Imperial Fine Art Exhibition. In 1930, he was once again selected for the 11th Japanese Imperial Fine Art Exhibition with Danshui Landscape.

Emphasizing Taiwanese identity in fine arts, helps found the Chi-Hsing Painting Society, Chidao Association, and Taiwan Painting Institute

In September 1928, Chen Chih-chi published an essay in the Taiwan Daily News entitled “To the Artists of Taiwan.” In it, he encouraged artists to pay further attention to the uplifting of Taiwanese consciousness and “to creating a Taiwanese fine arts scene epochal in its ethos.”

In 1926, Chen Chih-chi, along with Chen Cheng-po, Ni Chiang-huai, Lan Yin-ding and three others formed the Chi-Hsing Painting Society, creating the first fine arts association in Taiwan to be founded and run by Taiwanese. However, the society was dissolved in 1928. Under the concept of the “instilling sincerity and nourishing the island's residents with the power of art” the Chidao Association was formed in its place with Chen Cheng-po, Lan Yin-ding, Liao Chi-chun, Kuo Po-chuan, and Yang San-lang among the founding members. At the end of August 1929, the Chidao Association held its first exhibition. Also in 1929, Ni Chiang-huai founded the Taipei Western Painting Institute near Taipei Circle. The name of the institute was changed to the Taiwan Painting Institute in 1930 and set as its focus the education of young students interested in art and the organization of summer lectures and classes.

Major exhibitions featuring the works of Chen Chih-chi




Selected works



3rd Shinkaijusha Exhibition.




Kofukai Annual Exhibition

Outdoor Landscape



1st Chi-Hsing Painting Society Exhibition

Steamer, Tower's Shadow, Japanese Bridge



4th Shinkaijusha Exhibition.

Still Life, Takinogawa Landscape



6th Chinese Painting Association Art Exhibition




1st Taiwan Fine Art Exhibition

By the Sea, Loving Peach



2nd Chi-Hsing Painting Society Exhibition




9th Japanese Imperial Fine Art Exhibition

Taiwan Landscape



5th Shinkaijusha Exhibition.

Yellow Building ]



2nd Taiwan Fine Art Exhibition

Two People, Three People, Still Life on a Table



3rd Chi-Hsing Painting Society Exhibition

Afternoon Harbor, Park, Park Entrance, Still Life, Banyan Tree, Pond's Edge, Scenery of Danshui, Rose, Fishing, Naked, Parasol



6th Shinkaijusha Exhibition.

Keelung Park



3rd Taiwan Fine Art Exhibition

Banana Garden, Tudigong Temple



1st Chidao Association Exhibition

Tung Flower, Beautiful Lady, Green



11th Japanese Imperial Fine Art Exhibition

Danshui Landscape



7th Shinkaijusha Exhibition.

Still Life



2nd Shōtoku Taishi Hōsankai Exhibition




4th Taiwan Fine Art Exhibition

Scenery of Guanyin Mountain, Red Wall, Zhen Ren Temple



2nd Chidao Association Exhibition

Landscape, Flowers, Still Life



8th Shinkaijusha Exhibition.

On the Street



5th Taiwan Fine Art Exhibition

Portrait of a Woman



Shinchiku Prefecture University Fine Arts Exhibition




9th Hakujitsuka Art Exhibition




7th Chun-tai Exhibition

Danshui Landscape, Still Life, Self-Portrait, Flowers, Zhen Ren Temple


Illness results from travel between Japan and Taiwan

In March 1930, Chen Chih-chi returned to Taiwan after graduating from Tokyo Fine Arts School. However, his prior participation in student and social movements meant he had a hard time finding a job. Hoping to study in Paris, the capital of avant-garde art at the time, Chen threw himself into producing new works to save up funds for a study abroad.

The same year in August, Chen Chih-chi set off for Japan carrying paintings selected for the upcoming Japanese Imperial Fine Art Exhibition. On the day of his departure, the Xizhi River flooded its banks and Chen and his traveling companion, Chang Wan-chuan, were forced to wade through flooded streets until they arrived at Nangang Train Station for a train to Keelung Port where their ship was waiting. Soon after arriving in Tokyo, Chen contracted pleurisy and was hospitalized. Fortunately, he had Li Shih-chiao, Li Mei-shu and others to look after him during his convalescence.

In March 1931, Chen returned to Taiwan and celebrated the birth of his daughter, Chen Shu-ju, on April 3. Unfortunately, his pleurisy returned and he was hospitalized at Taihoku Imperial University Hospital (today's National Taiwan University Hospital). During his treatment, he wrote to his wife: “My favorite thing, above all else, remains painting. Even if painting is to kill me, I have no regrets. When we act on what we love in life, questions of life and death can be easily put aside. We should live with passion and with positivity, only then will our lives have meaning.” On April 13, Chen Chih-chi passed away in his home in Xizhi. He was 26 years old.

“The sage is long gone, but his example remains”—A posthumous exhibition as friends, family, and teachers remember Chen Chih-chi

On April 15, 1931 a memorial for Chen Chih-chi was held at Taipei's Nishi Hongan-ji Temple (formerly located on Zhonghua Rd. in Ximending. Present location of Taipei City Archives). That same year in September, a posthumous exhibition of Chen's work was organized by Ishikawa Kinichiro, Shiotsuki Tōho, and Ni Chiang-huai. On the exhibition's opening day, Ishikawa Kinichiro published a memorial article in Taiwan Daily News entitled “The Artistic Career of Chen Chih-chi.”

In 1934, the Tai-yang Arts Association was founded. In April 1938, the 4th Tai-yang Fine Art Exhibition was held in Taipei's Taiwan Education Hall (today's National 228 Memorial Museum) and featured a posthumous retrospective of the works of Huang Tu-shui and Chen Chih-chi. The year following (1939), the Chen Chih-chi Scholarship was established by Chen's family to support Taiwan's up-and-coming painters.

Chen Chih-chi's artistic output stretched over a period of 7 years. During that time, he boldly experimented with new brush strokes and color schemes. The content of his paintings heavily featured natural scenes from Taiwan, as well as Taiwanese cultural landscapes and traditions. Chen Chih-chi was among the first generation of Taiwanese artists to experiment with a personal style and to work towards ushering in a new artistic era in Taiwan. Concentrating the strength of the local populace, he promoted and founded local art groups and popularized fine arts education across the island. His work and its results serve as model for the generations of artists that have followed.


Taiwan Daily News had the largest and longest circulation of any newspaper in Taiwan during the period of Japanese colonial rule, with publication running from May 1898 to April 1944. Starting from 1926, with his first exhibition submissions, by 1938, Chen Chih-chi had been featured in close to 60 articles and was at one point referred to as “Miracle Boy” by the paper.

This exhibition features a selection of 27 particularly relevant newspaper articles that focused on the life of Chen Chih-chi or highlighted his work.